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PAC recommends RTÉ be brought under remit of C&AG

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is to recommend that RTÉ is brought under the remit of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), RTÉ News understands.

PAC will publish its final report into the crisis at the national broadcaster on Tuesday morning, a document containing more than 20 recommendations.

If that C&AG recommendation is adopted by Government, RTÉ would also be reporting regularly to PAC as well as the Oireachtas Media Committee.

It is understood that the PAC report will further demand that all future exit packages are reported, and none can include a non-disclosure agreement.

PAC will also seek to ensure that all salaried positions worth more than €150,000 are reported as well.

For the past eight months, PAC has been examining the crisis at RTÉ, part of which involved public hearings with RTÉ executives and board members.

Chair of PAC Brian Stanley told RTÉ News that the report is “concise but comprehensive” and the recommendations are “reasonable, fair but firm”.

He added that the public needs to have trust in RTÉ and, he suggested, these recommendations would achieve that goal.

Brian Stanley said if the report is implemented in full, it will ‘draw a line’ under the crisis

Independent TD and PAC member Verona Murphy said bringing RTÉ under the remit of the C&AG is the “number one priority”, but she added that the other recommendations from the committee are “required” to be implemented too.

Fine Gael TD and PAC member Colm Burke is emphatic that the C&AG recommendation has to be adopted.

He said: “RTÉ is receiving a substantial portion of its income from the taxpayers, therefore there must be full transparency and accountability – including coming back under the C&AG.

“There was no accountability in a number of areas and, to add to the problem, was the existence of a barter (slush fund) account, with only a few people knowing of its existence.”

Sinn Féin TD and PAC member Imelda Munster also prioritised the C&AG recommendation and, consequently, RTÉ coming under the remit of the Public Accounts Committee.

She added: “Stringent layers of oversight and accountability are required at every level of the [RTÉ] executive and the board.”

She said that “one additional big issue” is bogus self-employment at the station, which “needs to be comprehensively addressed for workers past and present”.

The Louth TD said her party wants the television licence fee scrapped and RTÉ to receive direct Exchequer funding as recommended by the Future of Media Commission.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy, who is also vice-chair of PAC, said the committee’s report has drawn on hearings as well as independent reports commissioned by RTÉ, such as McCann Fitzgerald’s examination of voluntary exit programmes at the station.

She said the report seeks to pull many of the key findings in one place and seeks actions and changes from RTÉ that address “many of the failings that came to light”.

Fianna Fáil TD for Dún Laoghaire Cormac Devlin said the PAC recognises that its report needs to be published, albeit that the crisis at RTÉ is continuing.

He said: “We are conscious that we need to conclude and publish our report based on our considerations and recommendations.”

Deputy Devlin said the PAC took that decision even though Minister for Media Catherine Martin’s interview on Prime Time, which triggered the resignation of the chair of the RTÉ Board, revealed “further issues of concern.”

With the Cabinet set to approve a new chair of the RTÉ Board on Tuesday, Labour deputy and PAC member Alan Kelly said: “RTÉ needs to get a chair that will take control of the situation and have confidence in the minister. That will be a challenge.”

He added: “The board also need to demand that the Government make a decision on future funding as it’s obvious that there are huge conflicts at the Cabinet table on this.”

The Tipperary deputy said all outstanding reports need to be published so that RTÉ can “move on in a positive direction”.

When PAC’s final report is published, it will be sent to the line minister, who in this case is Minister Martin.

In the vast majority of cases, such recommendations are adopted. If a minister disagrees with a proposal, they must send PAC a “minute” as to why they have a problem.

Mr Stanley said the PAC members do acknowledge that the current management at RTÉ has already implemented some changes and this is to be welcomed.

He added that if the committee’s recommendations are implemented in full, then it will help to “draw a line” under the long-running crisis.

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