Filter

Question

334. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she has any plans to prepare draft legislation to put in place procedures that would facilitate the Comptroller and Auditor General in auditing the wards of court funds, as recommended in the report of the Committee of Public Accounts on 6 July 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42783/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As the Deputy may be aware, jurisdiction in Wards of Court matters is vested in the High Court. Section 4(3) of the Courts Service Act 1998 provides that the Courts Service is independent in the performance of its functions, which are specified in section 5, and includes the management of the Courts. Court funds which are held for the benefit of Wards of Court are private funds under the control of the Courts Service which, through its offices in the High, Circuit and District Courts, has responsibility for the management and investment of funds in court.
The investment arrangements for all court funds operate under a structured framework. The Investment Committee of the Courts Service has an advisory role and its main function is to devise investment policy for court funds, oversee the recommendations received from its investment advisors, and to ensure compliance with best practice in the management of court funds. The Committee comprises members of the judiciary, representatives from the Courts Service and independent members. The Committee is chaired by the President of the High Court and is also supported by external investment advisors. The Courts Service also produces annual financial statements and is subject to both internal and external audit. The audited financial statements are published each year in accordance with the Superior Court Rules and published on the Courts Service website at www.courts.ie.
The Comptroller and Auditor General is not currently empowered to audit Ward of Court funds. There was a proposal to appoint the Comptroller and Auditor General as auditor of the funds included in a draft Bill in 2010. However it was not subsequently progressed as ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities led to the drafting of the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 which will, when enacted, abolish the wards of court system. This Bill is scheduled to go before the Seanad for Committee Stage on 9 December 2015 and the aim is that the Bill will be enacted by the end of this year.