March 5, 2018
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy TD has today called for senior civil servants Martin Fraser and Robert Watt to appear before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about the operation of the Strategic Communications Unit.
Deputy Murphy, who is a member of the PAC, said:
“An alarming aspect of the work of the SCU relates to the politicising of the top level of the civil service. The head of this spin unit in the Taoiseach’s department, John Concannon, was not appointed as a special adviser to Fine Gael.
“However, the way this unit has used public funds to pay for good new stories for the government amounts to a politicisation of the functions of State in the service of the Fine Gael party. There are questions about exactly how Mr Concannon’s appointment was handled through the formal public appointments process and what exactly role the Taoiseach himself played.
“A business case must have been made to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform from the Department of the Taoiseach to fund the unit to the tune of €5 million. This business case must be published. The two officials, Mr Watt and Mr Fraser, are the accounting officers for the two government departments in question. They are supposed to be making sure that appropriate divisions are maintained so that the work of civil servants is not politicised in the way we have seen it happen with this unit.
“These officials must come before the PAC to account for the fact that public funds have being misspent on a unit that was clearly set up to promote the political agenda of Fine Gael, and ought to be disbanded immediately.
5 March 2018