COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
Minutes of Proceedings
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Room 152, Parliament Buildings
Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Simon Hamilton MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Fra McCann MLA
Jennifer McCann MLA
David McNarry MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Paula Sandford (Clerical Supervisor)
Chris McCreery (Clerical Officer)
Peter Weir MLA
The meeting commenced at 10.08 am in open session.
Apologies are detailed above.
Agreed: that the evidence from Department for Finance and Personnel (DFP) officials on the Department’s progress against targets in its Efficiency Delivery and Investment Delivery Plans will be recorded by Hansard and the finalised transcript will be published on the website.
2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 12 November 2008
Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted the outstanding requests for information from DFP.
Members considered a response from the Minister of Finance and Personnel to the Committee’s concerns around the arrangements for Assembly scrutiny of the Strategic Stocktake of the Budget position for 2009 – 2011, together with a secretariat paper on Assembly involvement in the budget process, which had been requested by the Chairperson.
Members noted that the Minister had agreed to his officials briefing the Committee on emerging themes from departmental stocktake returns in advance of the Executive’s consideration of the material and that DFP officials will also brief the Committee on the outcome of the Stocktake, once it had been announced in the Assembly.
Mr Paisley joined the meeting at 10.18 am.
Agreed : that, before the Committee makes a final decision on whether it will seek legal advice on the budget process, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson will meet with the Minister to discuss the Stocktake arrangements and will report back to the Committee at next week’s meeting.
In relation to the Executive’s Review of the Budget Process, members noted that DFP officials will provide a formal response to the Committee report and will brief the Committee on the detail of future budget processes once the Executive has considered DFP’s findings and recommendations.
Members noted the response from DFP in relation to consultancy costs for the Review of Rate Relief for Full Time Education Students, Under–18s and Young People Leaving Care.
In relation to the management of sickness absence in the Northern Ireland Civil Service, members noted that a sub-group will be established within DFP to implement the recommendations in the reports from the Northern Ireland Audit Office; Public Accounts Committee; the Taskforce and the Consolidated Action Plan. The Committee has requested written progress reports in this area and officials will brief the Committee on progress in the Spring.
Mr McNarry left the meeting at 10. 45 am.
4. Progress on Implementation of DFP Efficiency and Investment Delivery Plans: Evidence from DFP
Ms McCann left the meeting at 10.50 am.
Ms Purvis left the meeting at 10.54 am.
Mr McNarry joined the meeting at 11.12 am.
Ms McCann joined the meeting at 11.27 am.
The Committee took evidence from David Orr, Corporate Services Director, DFP; Deborah McNeilly, Director of Finance Branch, DFP and Stephen Rusk, Finance Branch, DFP. The session was recorded by Hansard.
Dr Farry declared an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council.
Agreed: that follow up issues will be forwarded to DFP for a written response.
5. Progress on NI Direct Programme: Briefing from DFP
Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 11.35 am.
The Committee took evidence from David Orr, Corporate Services Director, DFP and Tom Kennedy, Director NI Direct Programme, DFP.
Mr McLaughlin declared an interest as a family member was involved in the pilot of the NI Direct programme.
Mr McNarry left the meeting at 11.55 am.
Agreed: that the DFP officials will provide information requested by the Committee during the briefing session.
6. Consideration of Other Statutory Committee Responses on Budget Stocktake
Members noted that responses had been received from four statutory committees on the strategic stocktake.
Agreed: that a paper will be tabled at the next meeting summarising the key issues from the responses received.
7. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered a proposal for subordinate legislation from DFP in relation to the Institutions of Further Education (Public Sector Audit) Order (NI) 2009.
Agreed : that the Committee was content with the policy implications of the proposed legislation at this stage
8. 3 rd Draft Terms of Reference for Scrutiny of Public Procurement Practice in Northern Ireland
Members considered and agreed an amended terms of reference for the Committee’s Inquiry into Public Procurement Practice in Northern Ireland.
Members noted that, as agreed last week, the agreed terms of reference will be copied to the Federation of Small Businesses and Edward Quigg in preparation for their evidence sessions next week and will be included with an invitation to make a written submission to be sent to key stakeholders.
9. Committee for Finance and Personnel: Response to OFMDFM Committee Inquiry into European Issues
The Committee considered a draft response to the Committee for the Office of the First and deputy First Minister’s (COFMDFM) inquiry into European Issues
Agreed: that the response, as amended, will be forwarded to COFMDFM.
The Committee noted the following correspondence:
- Committee for Employment and Learning: Correspondence on the Downturn in the Construction Industry ;
Agreed : that the correspondence will be forwarded to the Minister for Finance and Personnel as requested and that DFP will be asked to copy the Committee in on the reply as soon as possible;
- Northern Ireland Environment Link: Invitation to European Environment Policy Event, 9 December 2008 ;
- DFP: NICS Employment Equality and Diversity Plan 2008-2011 ;
Agreed : that a briefing from DFP officials will be included on the Committee’s work programme;
- DFP: Implementation of Recommendations in the ‘Access to Benefits’ Report on Increasing Take Up of Rate Relief and Disabled Persons Allowance;
Agreed : that the Committee will continue to monitor progress;
- Clerk to the Chairpersons’ Liaison Group : Publication of Members’ Attendance at Committee Meetings;
- Anne Morgan : Evidence on the Presumption of Death Bill.
11. Committee Work Programme
Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until Christmas recess.
Agreed: that the Committee’s consideration of issues arising from the evidence on the Presumption of Death Bill will be postponed until 3 December 2008.
Agreed: that the evidence sessions on the Civil Registration Bill will be deferred until after Christmas Recess.
Members considered information from the British Banking Association on why cuts in the base rate may not be passed on immediately to consumers.
Agreed: that representatives from the local banks will be invited to brief the Committee on how the banks can help to improve the current economic downturn in Northern Ireland.
Agreed: that the programme will be published on the website.
Mr Paisley left the meeting at 12.33 pm.
12. Any Other Business
Members considered a press article from the Belfast Telegraph on 12 November in relation to the potential return of European Union funds to the European Commission, after an audit detected errors and faulty documentation.
Agreed: that a written submission will be requested from DFP on the Department’s responsibilities in this area.
The Chairperson informed members that he will be participating in the Business Eye PWC Forum on 20 November 2008.
The Chairperson reminded members that the President of the European Parliament will visit Parliament Buildings on 24 November 2008.
13. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 10.00 am in Room 152, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.35 pm.