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PAC report shows profound change is coming to RTÉ

Seamus McCarthy is a person who does not speak very often at meetings of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), but it always counts when he does.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) was present when RTÉ executives and board members were flayed by the 12 TDs that make-up the spending watchdog, as skeleton after skeleton fell out of the Montrose closet.

Now, PAC wants the office of the C&AG to have oversight of RTÉ.

It is the top recommendation in the committee’s final report, which is to be published on Tuesday.

If adopted by Government, then the top brass at Montrose are going to get to know the eagle-eyed Mr McCarthy very, very well.

Given the embarrassing revelations of the past eight months, as the RTÉ omnishambles rolled on remorselessly, who could argue against an ongoing forensic audit when public money is at stake?

The Government certainly seems to like the idea, and so PAC is knocking on an open door.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy (File Photo:

Just last month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told his Fine Gael parliamentary party that the Cabinet was already considering such a move.

If, as is highly likely, the C&AG is given the powers to audit RTÉ’s accounts to ensure public funds are well managed, then any findings will be included in the office’s annual report.

And who scrutinises that document? The Public Accounts Committee.

RTÉ currently reports to the Oireachtas Media Committee, but it now looks likely that it will be engaging with PAC as well.

It is a significant development, as RTÉ has been outside the remit of PAC for decades.

The Broadcasting Authority Act 1990 empowered RTÉ to appoint auditors, and so the remit of the C&AG was deemed unnecessary.

And there will be plenty for the office of the C&AG to examine: RTÉ’s income in 2023 was around €340m, of which roughly half came from the licence fee.

The big question is how will the goal will be achieved?

Many politicians believe that it will require legislation, and so this could take some time before it’s implemented.

What is absolutely clear, however, is that profound change is coming to RTÉ – and tighter financial scrutiny is just one part of it.

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