COMMITTEE FOR FINANCE AND PERSONNEL
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
22 APRIL 2009
ROOM 152, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Simon Hamilton MLA (Deputy Chairperson)
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Fra McCann MLA
Jennifer McCann MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Ian Paisley Jnr MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
Peter Weir MLA
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
David McKee (Clerical Supervisor)
Chris McCreery (Clerical Officer)
Dr Robert Barry (Assembly Research)
Apologies: David McNarry MLA
The meeting commenced at 10.08 am in open session.
Apologies are detailed above.
Agreed: that the Committee’s formal clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Financial Provisions Bill will be recorded by Hansard and the Official Report published on the website.
2. Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 1 April 2009
Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.
Mr Weir joined the meeting at 10. 09 am.
3. Matters Arising
The Committee noted the composite request for information from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) which provided an update on any matters arising not covered elsewhere on the agenda.
Members noted information on Professor David Heald’s recent lecture on ‘Should Northern Ireland Wish the Abolition of the Barnett Formula.’
Members noted that, due to a technical difficulty, the closed session with DFP and Strategic Investment Board officials on 1 April 2009 had not been recorded and it would therefore not be possible to produce an Official Report of the session.
Members considered a secretariat paper covering the main issues arising from the session.
Agreed: that the paper will be passed to DFP for comment and subsequently issued to the Committee of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (COFMDFM) for information.
Members noted that DFP had not yet confirmed whether the restricted classification which Departmental officials placed on the submission for the session on 1 April could be lifted. Mr O’Loan asked that his dissatisfaction with the time taken for DFP to review the classification be recorded.
Agreed: that DFP will be asked to respond urgently on this issue.
Members noted a secretariat paper containing previously provided DFP commitments on how the local construction industry will be better informed of the Executive’s capital spending plans.
4. Implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards: Briefing from DFP
Ms Purvis joined the meeting at 10.20 am.
The Committee was briefed by the following DFP officials: David Thomson, Treasury Officer of Accounts, and Brigitte Worth, Principal Officer.
Mr Paisley left the meeting at 10.45 am.
5. Financial Provisions Bill Committee Stage: Consideration of Issues Arising from Evidence/ Clause by Clause Scrutiny
The Committee noted that, following advice from DFP that the provisions in the Bill would be of interest to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment; the Audit Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, the Bill papers were subsequently referred to these committees for scrutiny and the respective responses received had raised no issues in relation to the Bill.
Members noted that no written evidence had been received during the Committee’s public consultation on the Bill.
The Committee undertook its formal clause-by-clause scrutiny of the Financial Provisions Bill. The following DFP officials were in attendance: David Thomson, Treasury Officer of Accounts; Michael Daly, Central Finance Group and Brenda Shearer, Central Expenditure Division. The session was recorded by Hansard.
Clause 1 – Absolute privilege for reports of Comptroller and Auditor General
Question:That the Committee is content with clause 1 of the Bill, mindful that neither the Audit Committee nor the Public Accounts Committee have any concerns with the provisions in this clause, put and agreed to.
Clause 2 – Expenditure for consumer purposes
Clause 3 – Expenditure relating to social economy enterprises
Question:That the Committee is content with clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill, mindful that the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment has no concerns with the provisions in these clauses, put and agreed to.
Clause 4 – Costs of district rates collection
Clause 5 – Repeal of requirement to prepare Finance Accounts
Clause 6 – Short title
Question:That the Committee is content with clauses 4 to 6, put and agreed to.
Schedule – Repeals
Question:That the Committee is content with the Schedule of Repeals, put and agreed to.
Agreed: that a draft report will be prepared for the Committee’s consideration at an upcoming meeting, prior to the end of the Committee Stage on 13 May 2009.
6. Subordinate Legislation
The Committee considered a proposal from DFP to make a Statutory Rule under the Whole of Government Accounts (Designation of Bodies) Order (Northern Ireland) 2009.
Agreed: that the Committee is content with the policy implications of the proposed legislation at this stage.
The Committee noted the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (Amendment) Scheme (Northern Ireland) 2009. Members noted that, whilst the scheme amendment must be laid before the Assembly, it is not classified as a statutory rule and is therefore not subject to Assembly control.
Mr Paisley joined the meeting at 11.08 am.
7. Committee Inquiry into Public Procurement Practice in Northern Ireland
The Committee was briefed by Assembly Research on a research paper ‘Public Procurement and the Social Economy.’
Mr McCann left the meeting at 11.22 am.
Mr Paisley left the meeting at 11.23 am.
Agreed: that the Committee will consider the scope for also examining local government procurement as part of its current Inquiry.
Members considered a news release from DFP on the Procurement Task Group.
Agreed: that the Committee will request a briefing on the report from the Construction Industry Forum for Northern Ireland Procurement Task Group.
The Committee noted the following correspondence:
- DFP: Information on costs associated with Workplace 2010;
- DFP: Information on short-term roll-out measures regarding Workplace 2010;
- DFP: Information on the number of payroll issues outstanding in HRConnect;
- DFP: Response to issues raised by the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA) in relation to HRConnect;
- NIPSA: Comments in relation to DFP HRConnect evidence session papers;
Agreed : that the Committee will write to DFP, highlighting members’ continuing concerns with HRConnect’s performance and that a further oral briefing will be scheduled in the Committee’s work programme;
- DFP: Information in relation to follow up issues arising from the Draft Operational Plan;
Agreed : that the Committee will request outcomes from the DFP Board’s monitoring of Departmental performance in meeting Committee requests;
- DFP: Operational Plan 2009-10;
- DFP: Overview of Northern Ireland Civil Service Staff Vacancies;
- DFP: Response on reduced requirements due to unfilled staff vacancies;
- DFP: Report on placement of DFP staff in Brussels;
- DFP: Information in relation to Managing Absenteeism;
- DFP: Staff Attitude Survey 2008;
- DFP: Senior Civil Servants Pay and Bonuses - Pay Bands 1 and 2;
Agreed : that the secretariat will collate the various responses from DFP on this policy area;
- DFP: Response to COFMDFM query on EU funds;
Agreed : that this will be forwarded to COFMDFM as requested;
- DFP: Response on the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit’s (PEDU) scrutiny of departments’ performance against Public Service Agreement targets;
Agreed : that, given the Committee’s oversight role in respect of PEDU, an oral briefing will be arranged to specifically examine PEDU’s work in this area;
- DFP: Future work programme for PEDU;
- DFP: Update on Baseline Reviews;
- DFP: Update on issues arising from the Construction Industry Forum for Northern Ireland (CIFNI);
- DFP: Public Consultation on proposals to improve payment practices in the construction industry in Northern Ireland;
- Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors: Request for written responses to consultation paper on Value Accreditation and Regulation;
Agreed : that DFP will be asked whether the Department intends to respond and that the Committee will then agree a way forward;
- Committee for the Environment: Briefing from Chris Tuppen, British Telecom;
Agreed : that the correspondence will be forwarded to DFP as requested;
- Committee for Employment and Learning: Work shadowing placements during Learning Disability Week;
- British Medical Association: Measures to reduce incidences of obesity;
Agreed : that the correspondence will be forwarded to DFP for a response;
- Information Commissioners Office: Offer to provide a briefing on data protection and security issues;
Agreed : that a briefing will be scheduled in the Committee’s work programme;
- Ofcom: Budget reduced for the fifth consecutive year;
- Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office: New priorities in difficult times;
- Correspondence to Chairperson in relation to Northern Ireland Civil Service Equal Pay Claims;
Agreed : that a DFP briefing will be scheduled on the Committee’s work programme;
- Mencap: Offer to present oral evidence to the Committee during Learning Disability Week;
Agreed : that a further written submission will be requested from Mencap and that a response to this will be sought from DFP, before considering how to proceed;
- Ofcom: Agenda for Steering Group e-democracy workshop.
9. Committee Work Programme
Members considered the current draft of the Committee work programme until summer recess.
Members noted the e xplanation for a further delay in DFP’s response on the Review of the Budget Process.
Agreed : that the Committee will not meet on 3 June 2009, prior to the European elections the following day, and that the work programme will be rescheduled to facilitate this decision.
Agreed: that the current draft of the programme will be published on the Assembly website.
10. Any Other Business
Agreed: a press release for issue in relation to the Chancellor’s Budget statement.
11. Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 at 10.00 am in Room 152, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 11.58 am.