Dáil Éireann - Volume 412 - 12 November, 1991

Written Answers. - Ministerial Responsibility.

18. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance his views of the desirability of ministerial accountability to Dáil Éireann in respect of all State, semi-State bodies or agencies in order to ensure that Ministers have available to them at all times information which may be necessary for the common good and the national interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Finance (The Taoiseach): I consider it to be highly desirable that Ministers should be accountable to Dáil Éireann in the matters mentioned, and this is, in fact, the case, either by way of parliamentary questions, legislation, or debate. There are appropriate reporting mechanisms in place to ensure that Ministers have access to relevant information in relation to State-sponsored bodies. Care has, of course, to be taken that the autonomy of State bodies and particularly the commercial State bodies, in their day to day operations is not diluted.

In addition, commercial State bodies are answerable to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on State-sponsored Bodies in relation to their reports and accounts and operational results. The committee also examine common issues in relation to board responsibility, structures and organisation, accountability and financing as well as the relationship of commercial State bodies with central Govenment and the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The review of the Programme for Government states that the Government are committed as a matter of urgency to a number of relevant steps. Legislation will be introduced, which will include provisions to apply to State bodies, to regulate business standards. Persons proposed for appointment to boards of all State agencies and companies will be required to make a declaration of any interests relevant to their membership of such bodies. An appropriate code of [1029] conduct will be required for employees in each State company, together with an adequate system of internal audit.

The Deputy will also be aware that I have recently received from the Secretary of my Department a report, prepared at my request, on the principles which should govern the relationship between Departments of State and the State bodies under their aegis, together with subsidiary and associated companies of the bodies in question.

The examination was designed to ensure that: the traditional standards of integrity and conduct which are appropriate to the public service are maintained and the interests of the community and the State as owners of these bodies are fully taken into account in their operation.

Among the questions examined were tendering for contracts, the monitoring of acquisitions and reporting and accountability.

I am examining the conclusions and recommendations of this report, in consultation with my Government colleagues, with a view to preparing and setting in place appropriate guidelines for State bodies based on the findings of the report.