Northern Ireland Assembly
Monday 12 February 2001 (continued)
The Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel (Mr Molloy):Before addressing amendment No 2, as proposed by the Finance and Personnel Committee, I want to convey my thanks to the other members of the Committee for the work carried out at the Committee Stage of the Bill. The Minister identified the time pressures surrounding the Bill and asked the Committee to end its statutory Committee Stage on 26 January instead of 2 March. The Committee had to meet 10 times before that date. I also pay tribute to the Department's officials and to the Minister for the work they did to provide guidance and advice to the Committee. Finally, on behalf of my fellow Members, I thank the Chairpersons and members of the Public Accounts and Audit Committees for the invaluable service they gave in seeking to improve the Bill. Without their help it would have been impossible for the Committee to complete the Committee Stage of the Bill by 26 January. Amendment No 2 relates to clause 7 and is tactical in nature. It is needed to ensure that this part of the clause relates to Departments in general and not just to the Department of Finance and Personnel. Amendment No 4 introduces a requirement for the independent advisory body to be selected to oversee the manner in which the Department produces guidance on resource accounting for use by other Departments. This matter was discussed during the Committee Stage with departmental officials and the Minister. The Committee agreed that it was appropriate for the Bill to incorporate a worthwhile safeguard. While the Committee did not consider the further refinement proposed by Mr Leslie in amendment No 5, it too seems to represent a worthwhile improvement to the proposed arrangement. Finally, the Minister's amendment No 6 was discussed with the Committee, departmental officials and the Minister. The Committee agreed that it was appropriate for the Department to consult with the Public Accounts Committee before making an order to direct the Comptroller and Auditor General to undertake examinations to obtain access to documents. The Committee recommends the adoption of this amendment. The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (Mr B Bell): The Public Accounts Committee broadly welcomes these amendments. However, as Chairperson of the Committee, I prefer amendment No 5 because we want to give the Comptroller and Auditor General as much power as possible. Amendment No 5 would strengthen his position. We are concerned with the guidance that the Department of Finance and Personnel gets on accounting matters. We would prefer it to be overseen by the group selected for the same purpose in Great Britain. The Public Accounts Committee considers that there can be little scope for divergence, since we are part of the United Kingdom public expenditure framework and normally follow Treasury guidance on financial reporting, based on UK accounting standards. I am satisfied that the membership of the advisory body is representative of all the relevant interests, including audit in particular. The requirement for the advisory group to report on its activities, and for the Department of Finance and Personnel to arrange for such a report to be laid before the Assembly, will ensure that we are made aware of any areas of difficulty. I believe that amendment No 5 would help us more than amendment No 4. Mr Weir: I support the Bill and amendments No 1, No 2, No 5, and No6. In the explanatory and financial memorandum - if we are to believe everything we are told in it - we are being promised a new dawn in Government resource accounting. The benefits of the Bill which are listed are that there will be better information on the costs and benefits of capital assets, a lessening of current disincentives for capital investment, better focus of resources on priorities, better informed judgements and an extension of the accountability of the Executive. All of those things are to be welcomed. However, in examining the Bill - and it has been examined extensively - we need to look at how we can best improve it. The amendments that have been put forward will improve the situation. In particular, as has been indicated, within the Bill the bulk of control lies with the Department of Finance and Personnel. That is necessary and right. Nevertheless, there is a question mark over whether there is an opportunity for some independent input into that control. That has to be as strong as possible. Consequently, left with the choice between amendments No 4 and No 5, amendment No 5 is clearly stronger. As Mr Leslie said, there may be a need for some tweaking as regards amendment No 5 at Further Consideration Stage. We are faced with the choice between a Government Department simply offering consultation with an independent body and, as in amendment No 5, the Department's having to take full account of all recommendations made by that group. Amendment No 5 imports a greater degree of independence by professionals into this subject, which is necessary. I want to make a point that has not been made until now. According to the explanatory and financial memorandum, amendment No 5 is proposing something in keeping with the intention behind the Bill. Looking at clause 7(2) - which is one of the key clauses as referred to in amendment 5 - the memorandum indicates that the purpose is to "provide that DFP shall direct the form of resource accounts subject to the requirements that they shall present a true and fair view and conform to generally accepted accounting practice (GAAP) amended as necessary in the context of departmental accounts. In doing so DFP will have regard for any guidance issued by the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) or any successor. In practice this means that resource accounts will follow the normal accounting standards and conventions used in the private sector and elsewhere in the public sector modified only where necessary to take account of the particular requirements of departmental accounts." The intention behind the Bill and such a clause is that the Department should have to take account and follow the example of the professional bodies indicated by the advisory board. Therefore it is more in keeping with the spirit of what is intended rather than simply having a duty of consultation with the advisory board. Amendment No 5, with its more thorough regulations that compel the Department to take full account of all recommendations, is the preferable amendment. I urge Members to support amendment No 5 rather than amendment No 4. The Minister of Finance and Personnel (Mr Durkan): Several points have been addressed. Some amendments have been debated, and there are others in my name. First, regarding amendment No 1, I want to make the point that under my proposed amendment - amendment No 4 - any directions issued by the Department would be required to be agreed by the Financial Reporting Advisory Board and therefore would be subject to an independent check. 4.30 pm I want to emphasise that at all times we stressed the need for independent scrutiny and oversight, as happens at Whitehall. There is no resistance to that, and I refute any suggestion that there is. It was part of the initial proposals. I also remind Members that I identified this question in my introductory remarks at the Second Stage of the Bill. The outstanding question then was how to achieve that in the context of Northern Ireland. I said that I needed to introduce an amendment to achieve this. Essentially, that is what is now being done with the Financial Reporting Advisory Board clause. I hope that that allays some of the concern that Mr Leslie appeared to have, given his remarks about the initial Bill. I made that point myself at Second Stage. In the UK, the Accounting Standards Board oversees generally accepted accountancy practice, as Mr Weir indicated, while the Financial Reporting Advisory Board oversees the application of generally accepted accounting practice in the UK to public sector resource accounts. The proposal that accounting guidance should be agreed with the Public Accounts Committee is inappropriate, because such an approach would be inconsistent with that adopted in Westminster and Scotland. Therefore I do not accept amendment No 1. I accept amendment No 2, which was discussed by Mr Molloy as Chairperson of the Finance and Personnel Committee. This is a relatively minor amendment to correct a typographical error, but it is essential in that it gives the clause its proper meaning. I thank Mr Molloy and the Committee for the very thorough role that they played in scrutinising the Bill, for adhering to a very tight timescale and for presenting their report before the January deadline. I am also grateful to those other Committees which took a particular interest in the Bill. I am pleased that we were able to work together to progress the Bill thus far, despite the complex issues involved. The keen interest and co-operation of the Committee has been, and will be, vital if the Bill is to be passed during this financial year. I believe that amendment No 4, which I moved, is preferable to amendment No 5. The legislative draftsman has noted that the clause is technically defective because subsection 2 refers to consultation under subsection 1. However, the amendment removes the reference to consultation. Mr Leslie stated that, after further consideration, he might want to go even further with the amendment by requiring the Department of Finance and Personnel to obey the rulings of the Financial Reporting Advisory Board. That would leave the Finance and Personnel Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, the Executive and the Assembly without any discretion to take a different approach. An attempt to move in that direction may not be consistent with points about other aspects of the Bill, which stressed our need to retain some facility and judgement of our own, rather than be absolutely bound by practice, as happens elsewhere. Regarding amendments in my name, I have already indicated that I prefer amendment No 4 to some of the others tabled. When the Assembly considered the Second Stage of the Bill, I signalled that I intended to introduce an additional clause to give effect to the way in which the Department of Finance and Personnel's guidance on accounting matters to Departments would be overseen by an independent check. I intimated that I wished to discuss how best to go about that. That is something we pursued in discussion with the Committees - the Finance and Personnel Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Audit Committee. Hence the nature and wording of the clause. My proposal was that, in line with the position at Whitehall, the Department of Finance and Personnel should be required to consult an independent body on accounting policy and guidance to ensure an independent check. Also, an annual report will be required on those and other similar accounting matters. The question was whether to appoint the same body of persons selected by the Treasury - the Financial Reporting Advisory Body - or find an alternative. Following discussions with the various Committees and other interested parties, it has been agreed that the role should be fulfilled by the Financial Reporting Advisory Body, and the amendment has been drafted accordingly. I shall explain why amendment No 6 is in my name in more detail later. The Bill, as originally presented, contained a proposed power to enable the Department of Finance and Personnel to make an order to grant the Comptroller and Auditor General access. Although that was intended to facilitate accountability, some of the Committees interpreted it as placing the Comptroller and Auditor General's powers under the discretion of the Department of Finance and Personnel. To emphasise that the powers should be used mainly to open doors for the Comptroller and Auditor General, I am proposing this further amendment to place an obligation on the Department of Finance and Personnel to have regard for any views expressed by the Public Accounts Committee on the issue. Mr Leslie: I thank all Members who have contributed. This has been a useful airing of a very important issue. I note the comments made by the Minister, particularly the one he made at the beginning of his remarks when he said that the Department would have to agree with the Financial Reporting Advisory Body. That may be his intention, but it is not the thrust of his amendment, which says: "the Department shall consult". We are all familiar with what the outcome of consultation can be. Sometimes it can be very effective, and sometimes one wonders why the consultation took place at all. Although the Minister may have worthy intentions, the House must be conscious that when we pass the Bill we are binding the way in which Government accounts will be done in the future by all future Ministers. Although Ministers, and the parties that they are drawn from, may come and go, the Department goes on. When the Bill was first put before the House it did not contain that clause, even though a clause of that type was in the Bill at Westminster. That means that we must entertain some suspicions in that respect. Therefore, it is important that we increase the power beyond that of consultation. I urge the House to accept amendment No 5 in my name in preference to amendment No 4, as proposed by the Minister. I acknowledge that the drafting of my amendment needs a further tweaking and, as I said earlier, I will put down an amendment for Further Consideration Stage to take account of that minor matter. It was for that reason, when we first wrote our Standing Orders, that we quickly decided to introduce two Consideration Stages rather than one. With the best will in the world, one can sometimes fail to spot the consequences of amendments. I agree with the Minister that the thrust of amendments No 4 and No 5 is preferable to the thrust of amendment 1, and I support amendments No 2, No 3 and No 6. However, I urge the House to support amendment No 5, rather than amendment No 4, on what I regard to be the major issue. Mr Speaker: Is the proposer begging leave to withdraw amendment No 1? Mr Leslie: I do so beg. Amendment No 1, by leave, withdrawn. Amendment No 2 made: In clause 7, page 5, line 3 leave out "Department" and insert "department". Clause 7, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill Clauses 8 and 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill Clause 10 (Comptroller and Auditor General: access to information) The Chairperson of the Committee for Finance and Personnel (Mr Molloy): A Cheann Comhairle, I beg to move amendment No 3: In clause 10, page 6, line 36 leave out "at all reasonable times". The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List: Amendment No 7 (clause 18): In page 10, after line 19 insert "( ) The accounts and all documents relating to the accounts of an authority or body which are not otherwise required to be examined and certified by the Comptroller and Auditor General should be open to his inspection if it appears to him that the body exercises functions of a public nature, has received significant public funds or is entirely or substantively funded from public money." - [Mr Molloy.] Amendment No 8: After clause 18 insert the following new clause: "Inspections by Comptroller and Auditor General *-(1) The Comptroller and Auditor General may at any reasonable time inspect- (a) the accounts of any body to which this section applies, and (b) any documents relating to those accounts which are held or controlled - (i) by the body; or (ii) in pursuance of arrangements made by the body for the compiling or handling of any of its financial records. (2) The Comptroller and Auditor General shall not exercise his powers under subsection (1) in relation to a body unless it appears to him that- (a) it is appropriate to do so in view of public concern about any matter relating to the finances of the body or its financial transactions, or (b) it is otherwise appropriate to do so in the public interest. (3) Subject to subsection (4), this section applies to a body if it appears to the Comptroller and Auditor General that- (a) the accounts of the body are not required to be examined by, and are not otherwise open to the inspection of, the Comptroller and Auditor General by virtue of- (i) any statutory provision, (ii) any agreement made between that body and a Northern Ireland department, or (iii) any conditions imposed by a Northern Ireland department in pursuance of any statutory power, whether in connection with the provision of financial assistance or otherwise, and (b) the body exercises functions of a public nature or is entirely or substantially funded from public money. (4) This section does not apply to a district council. (5) Any person who holds or has control of any accounts or other documents mentioned in subsection (1) shall give the Comptroller and Auditor General any assistance, information or explanation which he requires in relation to any of those documents. (6) The Comptroller and Auditor General may report to the Assembly the results of any inspection carried out by him under this section." - [Mr Durkan.] Amendment No 9: After clause 18 insert the following new clause: "Economy, efficiency and effectiveness examinations by Comptroller and Auditor General *-(1) Part III of the Audit (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 (NI 5) (economy, efficiency and effectiveness examinations) shall be amended as follows. (2) In Article 8(3) (public bodies subject to examination under that Article) - (a) after sub-paragraph (b) there shall be inserted- '(b) any body- (i) whose accounts are open to the inspection of the Comptroller and Auditor General by virtue of section (Inspections by Comptroller and Auditor General) of the Government Accounts and Resources Act (Northern Ireland) 2001; and (ii) which is a public sector body within the meaning of paragraph (7).' (b) in paragraph (c) after 'by virtue of any' there shall be inserted 'other'. (3) At the end of Article 8 there shall be added the following paragraph- '(7) For the purposes of this Part an authority or body is a public sector authority or body if- (a) in the case of a company, its directors (or a majority of them) are appointed by a Northern Ireland department or a Minister of such a department; (b) in the case of any other body, its members (or a majority of them) are so appointed, and (c) in the case of any authority, the authority is so appointed' (4) In Article 9 (other bodies subject to examination) for paragraph (4) (bodies to which that Article applies) there shall be substituted- '(4) This Article applies to any public sector authority or body within the meaning of Article 8(7).' " - [Mr Durkan.] That clause empowers the Comptroller and Auditor General to obtain the information he needs to carry out his investigations. As currently worded, the clause restricts the Comptroller and Auditor General's access to times that are deemed reasonable. That could mean that the Comptroller and Auditor General might not be able to gain access to accounts during the weekend or on public holidays. There may be times when urgency is needed, and that test of reasonableness may be inappropriate. In order to remove unnecessary barriers to the Comptroller and Auditor General's ability to obtain documents, the Finance and Personnel Committee recommends the deletion of "at all reasonable times". A Cheann Comhairle, amendment No 7 is intended to invest the Comptroller and Auditor General with the additional power to investigate bodies that are in receipt of substantial public funds. The amendment is closely based on an earlier proposal by the Public Accounts Committee, which receives support from the Audit Committee and the Finance and Personnel Committee. A further refinement to the Public Accounts Committee's proposal was the introduction of additional wording to extend the scope of this power to encompass bodies that have "received significant public funds". However, the Finance and Personnel Committee has noted the format of amendment No 8 proposed by the Minister, which sets out to achieve the same objectives. A Cheann Comhairle, the Finance and Personnel Committee is satisfied that the Minister's proposed amendment represents a form of words which is more legally competent than the version suggested by the Committee. Although it failed to address the inclusion of those bodies which are in receipt of a significant amount of public funds, the Finance and Personnel Committee is satisfied that the additional powers invested in the Comptroller and Auditor General are now broad enough to establish a robust system of inspection. I will not be moving amendment No 7. I urge the Assembly to support amendment No 8, as proposed by the Minister. The Minister is to propose amendment No 9, which introduces a new clause that will further extend the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor General to undertake audits to measure economy, efficiency and effectiveness. At present, the Comptroller and Auditor General can undertake such audits in respect of Civil Service Departments. The new clause will extend that power in line with the inspection powers set out in the earlier amendments. The Finance and Personnel Committee urges the Assembly to support amendment No 9. 4.45 pm The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (Mr B Bell): I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee. The Public Accounts Committee originally drafted the amendment following discussions with the Minister. We were concerned that the Department of Finance and Personnel had not taken the opportunity presented by this legislation to widen the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General to allow him to examine the use of public money on behalf of the Assembly more fully. The Public Accounts Committee's amendment would have provided for the Comptroller and Auditor General to have inspection rights to all bodies carrying out functions of a public nature, or which are entirely, or substantially, funded by public money, where he did not already have such access. One of the key reasons behind the original amendment was a clear recognition by the Public Accounts Committee of the invaluable work that the Comptroller and Auditor General carries out on behalf of the Assembly. As Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, I have first hand knowledge of the vital contribution that the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff in the Northern Ireland Audit Office make in ensuring that the Northern Ireland Departments and other public bodies are fully accountable to the Assembly. That is very important. Over the past nine months the Public Accounts Committee has been able to examine some important issues based on the Comptroller and Auditor General's reports. These included road safety, control of river pollution, expenditure on the rural development programme, the administration of income support benefit and suspected fraud in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. I recommend that Members take a keen interest in the Comptroller and Auditor General's work and in the reports produced by the Public Accounts Committee, which have been based on his work up to now. The amendment has been widened and strengthened since it was first produced by the Public Accounts Committee. That has been due to the hard work and commitment of the Finance and Personnel Committee, of which I am also a member. We have argued successfully that we should seek to get things right rather than settle for something less because of the unreasonable time constraints that always seem to be placed on the Finance and Personnel Committee. No doubt this will be taken into account. At this stage I would like to acknowledge the Minister's co-operation in accepting the thrust of the Public Accounts Committee's proposals and extending it to provide for the Comptroller and Auditor General to carry out value-for-money examinations of all public bodies to which he has inspection rights. This would now include public corporations and a range of other bodies, such as housing associations. We have also had some positive assurances from the Minister. He has undertaken to review the Comptroller and Auditor General's role in the light of the impending report on the review of audit and accountability being carried out in Great Britain by Lord Sharman and to bring forward legislation in an early audit reorganisation Bill very soon. I am also encouraged by the Minister's response to the question of the Comptroller and Auditor General's access to bodies that receive significant public funds but which are not covered by the Bill. He has agreed to consider the matter further and to bring forward proposals in the audit reorganisation Bill. We look forward to that. He also said that the Department would be prepared to use powers under clause 18(8) to make an order to give the Comptroller and Auditor General inspection rights to such bodies where necessary. The Minister's amendment would require the Department of Finance and Personnel to have regard to the views of the Public Accounts Committee when determining whether and how to exercise those powers. This Bill is a worthwhile first step in improving the Assembly's accountability arrangements. However, I must emphasise that our long-term aim should be to ensure that the Assembly has complete oversight of public expenditure and that the Assembly's auditor has the statutory authority to investigate every pound we vote to the Departments, whenever or wherever it is spent. The Chairperson of the Audit Committee (Mr Dallat): To avoid any confusion, I will explain that the Audit Committee is primarily responsible for the budget that the public auditor has to spend - currently it is about £5 million and going up. I am pleased by the co-operation there has been between the Public Accounts Committee and the Finance and Personnel Committee and by the willingness of the Minister to take on board our concerns, anxieties and plans. From the very beginning, the Audit Committee recognised the need to update the powers of the public auditor in line with the modernisation of Government accounts that was being proposed. It was for that reason that we held joint meetings with the Public Accounts Committee and the Finance and Personnel Committee. I think that that marks a very good demonstration of how the Assembly can work in a positive way in the interests of the people whom we represent. It is critical that the Audit Committee works with the Public Accounts Committee and the Finance and Personnel Committee, which it has done. The Minister's co-operation has to be noted and has already been recognised by Mr Billy Bell. The Audit Committee is keen to see the Comptroller and Auditor General's inspection rights widened as far as possible to represent all public sector bodies and organisations that are substantially funded from public money. That is certainly something that we will pursue, although we may differ on timescales. However, the Bill must not be the end of the story. It is important that the Minister has undertaken to bring forward an audit reorganisation Bill. That will have implications for the structure and resources of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, and my Committee will be taking a close interest. We will be particularly keen to ensure that the Comptroller and Auditor General's audit and inspection powers are as comprehensive as possible and clearly defined in statute. We need to be able to assure voters in Northern Ireland that under devolution the Assembly can exercise full overview of public expenditure and hold to account any Department, body or company which receives taxpayers' money. Earlier today the Minister assured us that there would be no unnecessary hold-ups in how that work is done. It is critically important to the performance of this Assembly. Mr P Robinson: I am glad that other Members are today able to enjoy the excitement that we have had for several months in the Committee and to listen to the lively contributions on this subject. The Bill provides a considerable improvement in the way our finances are managed. The movement to resource or accrual accounting is, perhaps, something we should have had before now. As it works its way through the system, it will produce several advantages in the way that Government operates. Therefore there is a general welcome for the Bill, and even if none of the amendments are accepted I am sure Members can go away knowing that we have improved on the ways things are being run. That is not to say that perhaps the Minister is not trying one on, but we caught him out with amendment No 2. The suggestion that there is a difference between a small "d" and a big "D" - and we are not talking about the "d" word that we have been arguing about in the Assembly since it started - shows that the original wording was a clear attempt by the Department of Finance and Personnel to have complete control over the appointment of accounting officers in all Departments. The interpretation section of the Bill makes it clear that if it is a large "D", we are talking about the Department of Finance and Personnel, and if it is a small "d", it is all other Government Departments. The Minister did not even attempt to defend it, other than to say it was some poor wee typist who was responsible and that she has to take the blame. Nonetheless, it gives a taste of how the Department of Finance and Personnel is viewed. When I was Minister for Regional Development I found that coherent, articulate, and even macho civil servants became a quivering mass when reference was made to the Department of Finance and Personnel. It is seen as the overlord within the Civil Service, and people consider it with some fear and reverence. I quickly found out that the response to suggestions that I might do something to get its back up was "Oh, it will get you eventually, Minister, if you do that". I assume this was a suggestion that it does not always make decisions based on the merit of the case. Nonetheless that gives us some idea why, when we look at legislation such as this, we need to look and see just what powers we are leaving within the Department. Therefore the reference in amendment 3 to "at all reasonable times" is no small matter - reasonable to whom? Well, "reasonable" to the Department of Finance and Personnel, of course, because all reason begins and ends with it in these matters. From the point of view of those of us who want to see proper inspections carried out, there should be no barrier to the work of the Comptroller and Auditor General. If the Comptroller and Auditor General wants to see the accounts in any office, Department or Government agency, he should be able to do that. He would not start the task if it were not reasonable in all circumstances that he should be doing it. To have this other layer of judgement added to it is unnecessary and perhaps dangerous. It is possible to conceive of circumstances where the person who is going to make the judgement in a Department might be the person whom the Comptroller and Auditor General wants to investigate. Is it reasonable then for that person to have the power to stay the hand of the Comptroller and Auditor General? I note that although amendment No 3 is down as an amendment to clause 10, the Minister managed to get it in again in amendment No 8 - the new clause where he again inserts the reference "may at any reasonable time inspect". If amendment No 3 is carried it would suggest that at the Further Consideration Stage it will be necessary, for the sake of consistency and of taking the power away from the Department to determine whether or not the Comptroller and Auditor General has the power to inspect, that the reference in the amended new clause be taken out as well. This brings me to the inspection rights of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I do not think there was any disagreement in the Committee or with the Public Accounts Committee or with the Audit Committee in relation to the matter. There was a general principle, accepted by all, that the Comptroller and Auditor General should have the ability to follow the money. If the Assembly is voting money, the Comptroller and Auditor General should be able to satisfy himself, or herself, on how it is spent. 5.00 pm Has it gone in accordance with the wishes of the Assembly as regards how it will be managed? There are several additional opportunities open to the Comptroller and Auditor General if the Minister's amendment is accepted, as I expect it will be. However, I am not convinced that it is sufficiently global to include all the essentials. The Comptroller and Auditor General, who happily came along to give evidence to the Finance and Personnel Committee, was quite content with the Public Accounts Committee's amendment when it was produced, although he had to admit that, during the course of the questioning, circumstances were put to him that he had not thought of before and which clearly could only be taken into account by an amendment of the scope of the amendment put down in the name of the Committee. The Minister's amendment falls short of what is necessary. However, as a reasonable man - which I am at all times - I am willing to listen to what the Minister has to say in moving his amendment and in his defence of it. I wish to see if it takes into account the various circumstances that concerned members of the Committee. One example is the famous football case. This is off the top of my head and is, perhaps, not the best analogy to use. However, if a substantial amount of money were to be given by the Minister for Fun to football clubs in Northern Ireland, and those football clubs set about spending that money, what power has the Comptroller and Auditor General to ensure that they do what they were supposed to do? If millions of pounds had been given to a football club, how could the Comptroller and Auditor General ensure that, for example, grounds were upgraded? Have they had the added value, as required by the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, of putting in a certain amount of their own money as well? How does the Comptroller and Auditor General check that out if he does not have the power to inspect their accounts? Under the amendment as it stands, how could that be done? If it can be done, we have closed off one loophole. Another example is the enormous amount of money that is going out to so-called community organisations. All sorts of community organisations have sprung up. We hear reports day and daily about how such money is going into paramilitary organisations and that the IRA is running this organisation, the UDA is running that one and the UVF is running another. They are running around in cars of a better type than the Speaker of the House has. The truth is that there are allegations in the community that this is Government funding of these organisations. Would it not be worthwhile if the Comptroller and Auditor General had the power to go in to see if the money that is given to these organisations is being used properly? Will the Minister look at those issues to determine whether he is satisfied that the Comptroller and Auditor General would have the power to do so under his amendment? We have the opportunity at Further Consideration Stage if we feel that we have to revive the amendment not moved by the Chairman of the Committee; it can be put down under the name of another Member at Further Consideration Stage. I am unconvinced, as a reason for not pursuing it at Further Consideration Stage, by the view expressed earlier that the Minister will come back to the issue on the foot of later legislation. My confidence in the longevity of the Assembly is such that I prefer to have my jam now. If that is the only reason that the Minister can provide for putting it off to a later stage, that will inform my decision as to whether I put down an amendment at Further Consideration Stage.