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Coalition blamed for delay in setting up spending watchdog

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Chairman Brian Stanley

Chairman Brian Stanley

Alf Harvey

Chairman Brian Stanley

The Government has been accused of delaying the setting up of the Dail's powerful public spending watchdog.

The new chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Brian Stanley, made the claim, saying it's another sign of what he argued was "chaos" in the new Coalition.

Mr Stanley said the new PAC was due to meet tomorrow to discuss its work programme, but that's now been delayed until September after the Government failed to meet the deadline for submitting the names of TDs it wants added as members.

The PAC is the Dail's most powerful committee. It has the ability to compel witnesses from Government Department and State agencies to attend and demand that they provide documentation outlining public spending.

During the last Dail it probed the spiralling costs of the National Children's Hospital and was also involved in grilling officials on the cervical cancer screening scandal.

The General Election in February and the protracted process of forming a government amid the coronavirus pandemic means that the PAC has not met since last December.

Mr Stanley said that it was supposed to meet tomorrow to discuss its work programme for the next Dail term but that's not going to happen. He claimed the Government parties ignored several deadlines for submitting their membership list.

Deadline

"The Public Accounts Committee has a very important role to play in the 33rd Dail, but a number of parties have delayed it from getting on with its job," Mr Stanley said.

"There was a deadline set for all parties to have their membership list submitted by noon on Wednesday, July 29.

"This was raised at the Dail Reform Committee and an extension was agreed for close of business Wednesday evening. Again, this deadline was missed by the Government Coalition.

"The Government then chose to submit their nominations very late Thursday night, giving no time for a motion to come before the Dail on its last sitting day before the recess.

"Now this can't be done until the Dail resumes in September. It is unacceptable that some parties can obstruct the work of the PAC due to the fact that they can't get their act together."

The Laois-Offaly TD said there was a delay in appointing the chairpersons of other Dail committees and in setting up the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which oversees the running of Leinster House.

Mr Stanley said he will be bringing forward recommendations by the Dail Reform Committee "to have the remit of PAC expanded to empower the Committee to follow taxpayers' money wherever it is spent and whenever the need arises".