I welcome the Bill purely for the removal of the board. I was concerned about the board and its inefficiencies. It is our policy to remove quangos and this is a good example of a bad quango. I approve of the way the money is to be disbursed to various groups, especially those whose aim is to ease poverty and alleviate social deprivation.
I wish to examine the workings of the board. I give the Minister a word of warning. On a number of occasions in its annual reports the board has indicated that the disbursement of money could be bureaucratic and cumbersome within the various Departments. The Minister should take on board the point. When he disburses funds, by whatever means he chooses, he should remove the onerous task on groups seeking funding so that it is made as easy as possible for them to draw down funding.
I wish to outline reasons for my delight that the Bill has come before the Dáil and for the disbandment of the board. A comment was made by the board in its 2010 report to the effect that there were no inspectors of financial services to ensure it was complying with the terms of the 2001 Act. I find it strange that a board would indicate its disquiet in 2010 that from 2003 to 2010 the Minister had not appointed an inspector. Why did the board not question the situation previously? Surely it was the responsibility of the board to ensure all necessary measures were in place to ensure the money coming to it for disbursement did so in a proper manner.
I read the reports from 2009 and 2010. I was struck by the ability of the board to reduce its costs by 50% between the 2009 report and the 2010 report. It is interesting to note how when someone feels threatened, one is able to reduce one’s costs to show how viable one is at a lower cost. I do not understand the reason that was not done previously.
The funny thing about the board is that it had four auditors. Deloitte were the main auditors. Goodbody Economic Consultants audited the audits. Pobal carried out the audit for the Government and the Comptroller and Auditor General also carried out an audit. That is unreal. The Department of Health, which has a budget of approximately €19 billion, does not have as many auditors. The cost for such audits in 2009 amounted to €124,000.
I was also annoyed when I checked the website for the 2010 report, which was laid before the Dáil in August 2011. It was not there. I often wonder about such situations. Why did the board not lay its annual report before the public? When I clicked on the “Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement to Date” link on the home page, the site was blocked. I could not find out where the money was going. When I clicked on “Dormant Accounts Fund Profile”, it was blocked as well. I am nervous that this could be a secret organisation that is unwilling to let the public know where the money is going.
For this reason among other others, I am pleased the Minister has introduced this legislation, given the valid points I have made. With the removal of the board, the Minister will take more control of the fund. This is the key reason that I welcome the legislation.
I am pleased to get the Acting Chairman back on track.