§ MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is yet in a position to state the result of his inquiries into the question of the fees payable for the audit of the accounts of local authorities in Ireland; whether steps will be taken to bring the charges down to the level prevailing in England; whether he is aware that in Scotland the Secretary for Scotland invariably appoints professional accountants as auditors, and that these auditors are paid on a moderate scale and have no right to pensions; and whether a searching investigation into the whole question has been or will be made?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
I find that a searching investigation of the Irish Audit System was made in the years 1903 and 1904 by a Departmental Committee appointed by the Treasury. The facts relating to the local audits and the fees charged are not in dispute, and no further inquiry appears to be necessary. As already stated in reply to the Hon. Member's Question of 12th February, the audit of the accounts of local authorities in Ireland costs the State £6,000 a year, and it is not, therefore, in contemplation to reduce the fees charged to the local authorities, and thereby add to the very heavy expense which the State has already to bear. I believe the Scottish Local Government Board appoint local auditors in private practice to audit the accounts of local authorities, and that no pension is paid to them. This system, however, is less suited to Ireland than the English system, and Parliament has on repeated occasions affirmed the principle of independent audit for Ireland by officials responsible to the Government.
§ MR. J. MACVEAGH
Seeing that the charges in Ireland for these audits are 546 about three times more than in England, will the right hon. Gentleman consider if economy cannot be effected by reducing them without imposing any extra burden on the State?