Thursday 17 October 2019

Row over Watt delays examination of Brexit funding for Revenue

Robert Watt. Photo: Tom Burke
Robert Watt. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A ROW over who gets to grill public expenditure boss Robert Watt over cost overruns at the Children’s Hospital delayed an examination of Brexit funding for Revenue.

The Oireachtas finance committee was suspended as its members sought to resolve the situation with public expenditure minister Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Donohoe was due to be quizzed on revised funding estimates for State agencies under his remit including Revenue which is making preparations for Brexit.

However, members of the finance committee sought a commitment that Department of Public Expenditure Secretary General Mr Watt will appear before them to answer questions on the Chidlren’s Hospial controversy.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the health committee also want to haul Mr Watt in.

Mr Watt has written to the PAC chairman Seán Fleming indicating he will appear before a committee but suggested that he discuss the matter with other committee chairpersons.

At the finance committee Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty suggested that today’s business including the funding of Revenue would be deferred until the matter is resolved.

Mr Donohoe gave a commitment to find a solution but said that the committee is due to discuss funding for the Revenue for the “extraordinary event” that will be taking place next month, a reference to Brexit.

He said he hopes the revised estimates would be passed this morning.

Finance committee chairman John McGuinness said he felt Mr Watt was “playing games” and insisted it was his committee’s remit to question him.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy accused Mr McGuinness and Mr Doherty of “playing games” in demanding the issue is resolved before today’s debate could begin.

Both Mr McGuinness and Mr Doherty rejected this claim.

Mr Donohoe said the finance committee is the one he and Mr Watt is accountable to and he again promised to find a way to resolve the issue.

The committee was suspended and when it resumed Mr McGuinness outlined a number of possible date when Mr Watt would be asked to appear.

Work on the revised estimates began after that.

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