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Join Date: Dec 2006
[Article] CIÉ refuses to attend committee
CIÉ refuses to attend committee
THE BOARDS of CIÉ and Iarnród Éireann have refused to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport.
In response the committee, which said it wants to discuss a range of issues from safety considerations to accounting, yesterday unanimously resolved to ask the Dáil to allow it to compel witnesses to attend.
The resolution, proposed by Fine Gael Senator Shane Ross, came after committee chairman Frank Fahey told members a written request to “the boards and non-executive directors” of both Iarnród Éireann and its parent company CIÉ to appear before it on June 2nd, had been turned down.
This request had been made on April 21st after a committee meeting attended by CIÉ chairman Dr John Lynch, at which Mr Ross complained he was not getting information he required from Dr Lynch.
Yesterday, Mr Ross said he believed the boards and their non executive directors had not been given information on corporate procurement issues, gleaned by consultants Baker Tilly. The Baker Tilly report into procurement irregularities had been commissioned by Iarnród Éireann at a cost of €500,000 and had initially identified discrepancies amounting to more than €8 million. This was later reduced to less than €3 million, the Senator said.
Mr Ross said the committee should also ask Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to appear before it to comment on the issues.
Senator John Ellis (FF) said he believed recent legal advice that witnesses had absolute privilege in terms of defamation in what they said in evidence, could give rise to difficulties for the committee.
The committee unanimously agreed to seek new powers to compel witnesses to attend. The request will now go to the Oireachtas Committee on Procedure and Privilege.
Ross outraged by CIÉ directors' no-show
SEANAD REPORT: SHANE ROSS (Ind) said he could not understand how the Government was prepared to stand over a situation where the non-executive directors of CIÉ were giving “two fingers” to an Oireachtas committee.
He thought it was possibly unprecedented and indefensible for a parliamentary body to be told that directors of this semi-State had refused to attend a sitting to answer questions about the way CIÉ was governed.
Demanding that the Minister for Transport attend the House to address the issue, he said CIÉ was being investigated for good reasons – “they found some corruption inside themselves” – and the board had not seen the report that had been commissioned by certain executives at a cost of €500,000. Neither had the Minister.
Now the non-executive directors, who were paid from State funds and who were ministerial appointees, were saying to the joint committee on transport “two fingers to you guys, we’re not coming in, we’re not telling you what’s happening”.
CIÉ received an annual subsidy of €300 million, yet “its board says we can go and jump in a lake when we ask them what’s happening to that particular money”.
If the corporate governance of semi-States was going to be just used to appoint political hacks who refused to be accountable to the Oireachtas, there was no point in having joint committees at all.
Seanad leader Donie Cassidy said the directors’ non-appearance posed a serious challenge to the committee system. “I know there quite possibly is a very good reason for this happening. I’ll certainly endeavour to find out.”