Tuesday 17 July 2018

PAC criticises oversight of RTÉ funding and broadband roll-out delays

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has criticised the oversight arrangements for funding going to RTÉ and delays in rolling out high speed Broadband.

A newly published report notes that €179m in licence-fee payers' funds were transferred to RTÉ by the Department of Communications in 2016.

The Dáil's public spending watchdog found that it is "not acceptable" that there is no Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place between the Department and RTÉ.

Its report said that "clarity should be brought to the oversight arrangements of RTÉ in addition to the provisions of the Broadcasting Act".

The Department had told the PAC that it has advice from the Attorney General was that the Act was adequate to cover oversight of RTÉ.

Sinn Féin PAC member David Cullinane said an SLA may not legally be required, bit it would "make sure we have higher levels of transparency".

Meanwhile, another conclusion in the PAC report in relation to the Communications Department is that ongoing delays to the National Broadband Plan are "unacceptable".

It recommended that the Department publishes a timeline and costings for the implementation of the plan by June this year.

The PAC report covered several other issues including a probe of matters relating to Education Training Boards and the committee's ongoing examination of finances at the Garda Training College in Templemore.

PAC member, Fianna Fáil TD March MacSharry expressed frustration about the effects of the committee's work on some State agencies it looks into.

He said: "Sadly from a personal perspective I don’t believe there is adequate sanction and follow-up."

He said there's "nothing binding" in the recommendations that come about as a result of "substantial work" by the committee and its staff.

PAC chairman, Seán Fleming, also a Fianna Fáil TD, insisted that the committee's work is having an impact.

He pointed to improved corporate governance of health organisations funded by the HSE after a series of PAC investigations into such bodies in recent year.

Mr Fleming said: "The role the public accounts committee has actually brought about significant improvements in a big sector of the Irish economy."

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