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Saturday, 6 October 2018

Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach failed to ensure an internal audit of the President's Office


Presidents Vote
Presidents Allowance
Freedom Of Information
Access to Environmental Information


The Irish Consitution THE PRESIDENT

ARTICLE 13 8 1° The President shall not be answerable to either House of the Oireachtas or to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and functions of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of these powers and functions.

2° The behaviour of the President may, however, be brought under review in either of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the purposes of section 10 of Article 12 of this Constitution, or by any court, tribunal or body appointed or designated by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the investigation of a charge under section 10 of the said Article.

10 1° The President may be impeached for stated misbehaviour.


2° The charge shall be preferred by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this section.


3° A proposal to either House of the Oireachtas to prefer a charge against the President under this section shall not be entertained unless upon a notice of motion in writing signed by not less than thirty members of that House.


4° No such proposal shall be adopted by either of the Houses of the Oireachtas save upon a resolution of that House supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership thereof.


5° When a charge has been preferred by either House of the Oireachtas, the other House shall investigate the charge, or cause the charge to be investigated.


6° The President shall have the right to appear and to be represented at the investigation of the charge.


7° If, as a result of the investigation, a resolution be passed supported by not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the House of the Oireachtas by which the charge was investigated, or caused to be investigated, declaring that the charge preferred against the President has been sustained and that the misbehaviour, the subject of the charge, was such as to render him unfit to continue in office, such resolution shall operate to remove the President from his office.


Presidents Office Costs


Can the 894,000 be found in Appropriation Accounts or Estimates of Public Expenditure

The President's Vote (original blog)

The Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach is the accounting officer for the Presidents Establishment.

Aras gets €55m but has not faced internal audit Independent.ie Philip Ryan August 19 2018

The C&AG documents, which are signed and dated by Department of Taoiseach secretary general Martin Fraser, show there was no internal audit of the President's Office between 2012 and 2017

Appropriation Accounts 2018 Vote 1 President's Establishment Comptroller and Auditor General
Internal Audit and Audit Committee
An Audit Committee was in place for the Vote in 2016 but did not meet as the Chairman was indisposed. No internal audit work programme was agreed for 2016 due to the fact that the Audit Committee did not meet. A new chairman will be put in place in 201

Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach failed to ensure an internal audit of the President's Office

Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser is hiding behind the personal circumstances of somebody in order to excuse himself not having an internal audit of the President's Establishment for over 3 years. The Secretary General appointed a chairman of an internal audit committee in spring 2014 but it never met due to the personal circumstances of the chairman, but he didn't try to replace him in those 3 years.

2016 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts 25th September 2018
Vote 1 - President's Establishment
kildarestreet.com



Deputy Farrell asked the Secretary General about the lack of internal audit at the PAC meeting

Mr. Martin Fraser:What happened was that I appointed a chairperson of the audit committee in spring 2014. That chair was indisposed. The committee may well know the circumstances but I do not want to get into it.

Alan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael) I am not asking about that.

Mr. Martin Fraser:For that reason, the audit committee did not meet and, therefore, the internal audit function which I set up did not-----

Alan Farrell May I interrupt? The audit committee did not meet. Is the Áras responsible for ensuring that occurs or is Mr. Fraser responsible?

Mr. Martin Fraser:I am happy to take responsibility for it but it is actually the responsibility of the audit committee. Having appointed a chair to the committee, it would not be unreasonable. There are particular circumstances in this case. I presume the committee is aware of what they are.

Alan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael)
I am not.

Seán Fleming It is up to the Deputy if he wants anything said about it.

Alan Farrell I do not want to delve into the specifics.

Seán Fleming (Laois, Fianna Fail) Then the Deputy should not.

Mr. Martin Fraser:I do think it is appropriate. It is a very sensitive matter and quite a sad matter.

Alan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael) I do not believe it is the committee's business but that is my own view.

Later Deputy Catherine Connolly asked him about it.
Martin Fraser There is a separate audit committee for Áras an Uachtaráin.

Deputy Catherine Connolly How often did that audit committee meet from when it was set up in spring 2014?

Mr. Martin Fraser Again, I am afraid I have to repeat what I said to Deputy Farrell. It did not meet because the chairman was indisposed.


Deputy Catherine Connolly It did not meet at all. That was not clear to me. What we have ended up doing is trying to avoid talking about personal matters which should not be even mentioned.

Mr. Martin Fraser
It did not meet.

Deputy Catherine Connolly
It did not meet. That is the fact. Mr. Fraser was the Accounting Officer. What did he put in place when that committee did not meet?

Mr. Martin Fraser As I explained to Deputy Farrell-----

Deputy Catherine Connolly No, explain it to me now, please.

Mr. Martin Fraser I have just explained that it is quite a personal and sensitive matter and I do not want to talk about it too much. I feel the need to-----

Deputy Catherine Connolly Mr. Fraser will have to stop this. Listen to me. We are looking at a system of accountability. I am talking about systems and procedures. I do not want to mention a person, so please do not.

Appropriation Accounts 2017 Vote 1 President's Establishment Comptroller and Auditor General 26th September 2018

Internal Audit and Audit Committee
There were no meetings of the Audit Committee in 2017 as there was no Chairman in place and consequently no internal audits took place. A Chairman was appointed in February 2018 and since then, the Committee has met and a plan for internal audit in 2018 has been scheduled.

Department of An Taoiseach Internal Audits Dail PQ February 2018

Catherine Murphy To ask the Taoiseach if his Department has completed an external quality assurance assessment of its internal audit function as required by the Institute of Internal Auditor standards that were introduced in 2012 (details supplied). [5386/18]

Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; An external peer review was carried out on the internal audit function in my Department in 2013. The review confirmed that the internal audit function met the standards required for the provision of a robust, independent and objective assurance to the Accounting Officer of my Department on the adequacy or otherwise of the systems of internal control operating within my Department. The recommendations in the review to improve the internal audit function were implemented in full. Internal reviews of the Department’s internal audit function are carried out annually in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Internal Audit Standards
"Failure to meet the mandatory meeting attendance rate (suggested: 75%) should trigger a discussion with the member on their continued ability to meet the role requirements."

(End of original blog)

The Allowance

Presidential Establishment Act, 1938
Emoluments and allowances receivable by the President.


1.—(1) The emoluments and allowances to be received by the President in pursuance of section 11 of Article 12 of the Constitution shall be at the rate of ten thousand pounds per annum, whereof five thousand pounds shall be the personal remuneration of the President.


(2) The emoluments and allowances mentioned in the foregoing sub-section of this section shall be charged upon and payable out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof and shall be paid by equal quarterly instalments or by such other periodical payments as the Minister for Finance shall, with the consent of the President, from time to time determine.

Presidential Establishment (Amendment) Act, 1973

Presidential Establishment (Amendment) Act, 1991
S.I. No. 455/1997 - Presidential Establishment Act, 1938 (Section 1 (3)) Order, 1997
S.I. No. 67/1998 - Presidential Establishment Act, 1938 (Increase of Emoluments and Allowances) Order, 1998



Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 2011
Transfer of certain other functions to Minister.


9.— (1) (a) Subject to paragraph (b), the following functions of the Minister for Finance are transferred to the Minister, except in so far as they consist of the power to pay moneys out of the Central Fund:


(i) all functions (including functions conferred by or under statute) relating to superannuation, remuneration (including allowances and expenses), appointment and terms and conditions of service of members of staff of public service bodies;


(ii) all functions (including functions conferred by or under statute) relating to remuneration (including fees, allowances and expenses), appointment and terms and conditions of service of members, or members of boards, of public service bodies;


(iii) the functions consisting of the sanctioning or approval of expenses incurred in the administration of any statute;


(iv) all functions (including functions conferred by or under statute) relating to superannuation, remuneration (including allowances and expenses) and terms and conditions of service of—

...
(VI) the President of Ireland.

Although the Public Accounts Committee were unsure about this.

Public Accounts Committee 2016 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts Vote 1 - President's Establishment 25 September 2018

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail) From where is it coming?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy: The Central Fund of the Exchequer.

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail) Presumably, the Accounting Officer is our friend the Secretary General of the Department of Finance.

Mr. Seamus McCarthy: Correct.

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail) Does the Secretary General of the Department of Finance have any audit function in respect of the figure of €317,000?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy: No, not that I am aware of.

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail) Does anyone in the Department of Finance?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy: The Deputy would have to check with the Department.

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail)

I know that sometimes my language is a little flippant, but is this a payment of €317,000 on the blind? Is it the case that no one has any remote oversight, notion or idea of what it is spent on?

Mr. Seamus McCarthy: I do not know.

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail) Does Mr. Fraser know?

Mr. Martin Fraser: I do not, but I presume there are procedures in place in Áras an Uachtaráin for dealing with it.

Marc MacSharry (Sligo-Leitrim, Fianna Fail)

Can I request, on behalf of the Committee of Public Accounts, that those procedures be given to us, first, to confirm whether they are in place? Perhaps it is something the audit committee set up in 2016 can look at once it gets around to it in 2018 or 2019. What procedures govern the expenditure or use of the sum of €317,000? Perhaps we could have an indication, staying within the bounds of the constitutional position, of what it has been used for in the last seven or, for that matter, ten or 20 years. It seems bizarre that €317,000 of public money is given to whomever on an annual basis, with no oversight or responsibility by anybody, while Mr. Fraser, as Accounting Officer, states to me that he presumes there are procedures in place that govern it in Áras an Uachtaráin and the Comptroller and Auditor General confirms that he does not audit it. That is an issue.


Michael D Higgins will return €200k balance in Áras account at end of term thejournal.ie 4th Oct 2018 Michelle Hennessy

McAleese returns more than €500,000 in allowances Deaglan De Breadun Thu, May 3, 2012
Mrs McAleese has gifted the unused amount to the State in three separate tranches – December 2010 and November 2011, with the final transfer taking place last month.

Freedom of Information

Adding the Office of the President was debated during the legislating of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 but was rebuffed by the government due to "tradition" and amendments put were not put to a vote but withdrawn by the opposition (Fianna Fail).

Freedom of Information Act 2014 irishstatutebook.ie
PART 5

Restriction of Act

42. This Act does not apply to—

(h) a record relating to the President

National Union of Journalists Submission 1st February 2013
Additional Reform:   
The Freedom of Information Act  1997 excluded the Office of the President of Ireland from the provisions of the Act.

There has been no public debate on the exclusion of the office of President. This stems from deference to the office of President and recognition of the Constitutional role of the President.
Given the evolution of the office the NUJ would favour extension of the Act to the Office of President, with appropriate safeguards exempting meetings of the Council of State.

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2012: Discussion
Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Mr. Seammus Dooley: There are circumstances within many public bodies where FOI requests are not appropriate. For instance, I would welcome the extension of the legislation to cover VECs but VECs are also employers and at VEC meetings - I am speaking as someone who spent his early career as a journalist attending VEC meetings - staff matters are dealt with along with issues that relate to personal rights and issues that are covered by data protection. Those issues are outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and that was used as a means to keep the VECs out for years. That does not mean there cannot be protections for dealing with those issues. There are also issues of the security of the State which are recognised but they are all capable of being dealt with.

I cannot think of an organisation that should not be covered by the freedom of information legislation. The original Act excluded the Office of the President of Ireland out of deference to the office but knowing all of the office holders in my lifetime, there is no reason why freedom of information should not be extended to the President so we would know what invitations he receives. We can understand that meetings of the Council of State would be excluded.
Report on hearings in relation to the Draft General Scheme Freedom of Information Bill 2012 June 2013
Main points as raised at the public hearings and submissions received and which the Joint Committee considers should be addressed in the legislation.
Topic/Issue to be addressed/Comments of the Joint Committee
Inclusion of the Office of the President of Ireland/The original Act excluded the Office of the President of Ireland. The Joint Committee considers that is no justification as to why FoI should not be extended to the President to cover areas such as invitations received with exemptions for meetings of the Council of State which could be excluded.

Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform
Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Committee Stage (Resumed)
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
I am also considering the administrative functions of the Office of the President.

Public Accounts Committee 2016 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts Vote 1 - President's Establishment Tuesday, 25 September 2018
Mr. Martin Fraser:
There is probably a policy dimension in that. I believe that government has felt the President should be separate to the normal run, and that is the policy. There is also a fundamental constitutional issue, which is the article I mentioned in my letter, in that the President cannot be answerable to the Oireachtas or to the courts. The freedom of information legislation ultimately leads to the courts.

Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform: Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform
Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Committee Stage
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
I move amendment No. 9:

In page 15, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:“(b) the Office of the President;”.

Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)

Amendment No. 9 seeks to include the Office of the President in the definition of a public body under section 6. Section 42 sets out several areas where the Freedom of Information Act does not apply. This amendment would provide for the removal of the records relating to the President from this section. This matter has already been dealt with under section 6. The general view is that the Head of State should not be encompassed by freedom of information legislation. The strong advice we have received is that including it would impact on the dignity and independence of the office. For that reason, I have accepted the advice not to include it in the legislation.

...

Regina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)

The Minister stated that it was a view held by some that it could potentially bring the Office of the President into disrepute or would be undignified. Who are the some? Who holds the view that we should not seek the view of the President?

Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)

Those whom we consult in all of these matters are the officials of the line Department responsible. In this case, it is the officials who deal with the Office of the President in the Department of the Taoiseach.


Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Report Stage Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Seán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 15, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:“(b) the Office of the President;”.

This seeks the inclusion of the Office of the President and was discussed on Committee Stage. Amendment No. 21 seeks the inclusion of the administrative functions of Tourism Ireland because it is included as an exempt body in the schedule.

Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)

These are all Deputy Sean Fleming's amendments addressing issues that were debated on Committee Stage. I have not changed my mind on the Office of the President as the tradition that the President is above politics and outside the fray is accepted. I considered the amendment but will not accept it.


Dáil debates Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Report Stage (Resumed) Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Debate resumed on amendment No. 20:In page 15, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:“(b) the Office of the President;”. —(Deputy Sean Fleming)

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Committee Stage Thursday, 25 September 2014

Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
I move amendment No. 9:


In page 15, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:
"(b) the Office of the President;".

These amendments seek to insert some extra bodies and important offices so they will be within the scope of the legislation.

Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)

Amendments Nos. 9 and 24 relate to the Office of the President. An amendment along these lines was tabled in the Dáil and I gave it very careful consideration.

Reflecting the constitutional provisions on the President, it has always been accepted that the President and the Office of the President are beyond the normal fray and to and fro of politics. The tradition, both in this House and the other is that we do not discuss the President. My approach is in keeping with the long-held tradition respecting the status and independence of the Office of the President. All sides of the House agree this is vital to the dignity and role of the Office of the President and presidency. This is very much appreciated by the public at large.

The FOI Acts exclude records relating to the President. This obviously reflects the accepted view. The amendments before the House do not propose to remove the exclusion of the records relating to the President, only the Office of the President, but I am of the view that the smallness and intimacy of that office would make distinguishing between the President and Office of the President very difficult.
...
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Freedom of Information Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages Thursday, 2 October 2014

Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 15, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:"(b) the Office of the President;".

The amendment proposes to include the Office of the President and the financial functions thereof and not to include the President himself or herself. The Minister rightly pointed out the President's office is subject to the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Committee of Public Accounts and an Estimate in the Dáil but not subject, like every other body, to freedom of information. I do not see how imposing this requirement on the office would impinge in any way on the functions of the President as he carries out his role as head of State. The debate has nothing to do with him or any other President but rather the running of the office.
Amendment No. 4 relates to Tourism Ireland.

Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)

It has always been the tradition, and accepted in both Houses, that the President is above politics. It has been a firm and rooted tradition since the foundation of the State, and accepted in the Dáil and Seanad, that we do not discuss the President. In keeping with this independence I felt it would not be appropriate to cover the Office of the President under freedom of information. With regard to the matter raised by Senator Byrne on financial affairs, the Vote is fully scrutinised, presented to the Houses and audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General, and all expenditure is fully exposed and subject to public scrutiny as is right and proper. This is the appropriate extent.

Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)

We will sacrifice that for the sake of peace for the time being. We will try to get it on the agenda the next time changes are being made.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Ms X and The Office of the Secretary General to the President (2014 FOI Act) 8 March 2018 Office of the Information Commissioner
On 24 February 2017, the applicant made an FOI request to the Office of the Secretary General of the President for access to various records concerning travel and expenses of the Secretary General.
Findings
Section 6(1) of the FOI Act describes various entities that shall be considered to be an FOI body including, at section 6(1)(b), an entity established by or under any enactment (other than the Companies Acts). The Office of the Secretary General initially argued to the Commissioner that it was not an FOI body. This Office, having regard to sections 6 and 7 of the Presidential Act 1938 (which provide for the creation of the post of Secretary to the President and for the establishment of the Office of the Secretary General to the President) did not agree. As provided for in the FOI Act, on 12 June 2017 this Office referred the matter to the Minister for a binding determination. On 22 November 2017, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform wrote to this Office informing it that the Minister had determined the Office of the Secretary General was an FOI body on the basis that the definition of public body extends to any entity established by or under any enactment. It said that the Office of the Secretary General was established under statute and is therefore comprehended by the definition of a public body in the FOI Act.
On 22 November 2017, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform wrote to this Office informing it that the Minister had determined the Office of the Secretary General was an FOI body on the basis that the definition of public body extends to any entity established by or under any enactment. It said that the Office of the Secretary General was established under statute and is therefore comprehended by the definition of a public body in the FOI Act.
I find that, having regard to the determination by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, the Office of the Secretary General is an FOI body

Access to Information on the Environment

Government jet records of Irish President could be released for the first time following landmark decision
Mr Ken Foxe, Raidió Telefí­s Éireann and the Department of Defence Ken Foxe June 10, 2016
The appellant is a journalist with the Investigations Unit of RTÉ. On 19 February 2015, the appellant made a request to the Department for access to information relating to "all travel domestic and foreign undertaken relating to ministerial/VIP travel on the government jet(s), CASA aircraft, military helicopters and any other relevant aircraft in the period between March 2011 and the current date". The appellant requested access to five specific categories of information: "dates of travel; destination; number and name of passengers; and minutes and time on board". The appellant specifically requested access to environmental information on air travel by the President.
I find that the Department was not justified in refusing to provide access to MATS information on dates of travel, destinations of travel, flight durations, the number of passengers travelling, and the names of office holders and departments availing of the service, as these aspects of the request fall within paragraph (c) of the definition. I also find that information on dates and destinations of travel are environmental information under paragraph (b) of the definition.
Denis Naughten signs environmental data waiver on presidency Mark Tighe The Times September 30 2018

European Communities (Access To Information On The Environment) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 S.I. No. 309 Of 2018

(2) Notwithstanding anything in sub-article (1), in these Regulations
“public authority” does not include—
I, DENIS NAUGHTEN, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by section 3 of the European Communities Act 1972 (No. 27 of 1972) and for the purpose of giving further effect to Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003, hereby make the following regulations:
1. These Regulations may be cited as the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) (Amendment) Regulations 2018.
2. Article 3 of the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007) is amended by the substitution of the following sub-article for sub-article (2):
“(2) Notwithstanding anything in sub-article (1), in these Regulations “public authority” does not include—
(a) the President,
(b) the Office of the Secretary General to the President,
(c) the Council of State,
(d) any Commission for the time being lawfully exercising the powers and performing the duties of the President, or
(e) any body when acting in a judicial or legislative capacity.”.

Links

Accounts of the Public Services

Taoiseach's Department Internal Audit Unit

Submissions on the FOI Amendment Bill 2012c

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