John Purcell said it would have been preferable if the contractual arrangements with the inquiry chair, Anne Dunne SC, and her legal team had been structured so as to provide certainty about the early completion of their work.
The €13.8m inquiry that began its work in March 2001 was wound up by the Government in March last year and two months later the Government appointed legal expert Deirdre Madden to prepare a report on key issues relating to post mortem practices and procedures by December 2005.
The C&AG pointed out that Ms Madden’s report which cost €436,000 was presented to Health Minister Mary Harney on the due date.
Mr Purcell, who noted that the Department of Health spent around €44.4 million on tribunals and inquiries in 2005, said it was well recognised that a delicate balance had to be achieved when inquiries were undertaken.
“On the one hand, the facts must be established through an objective and independent process while, on the other, there needs to be a cost-effective inquiry that gathers sufficient relevant and reliable evidence to enable the State to address the issues and concerns that arise,” he wrote.
The Dunne Inquiry, established by the then Health Minister, Micheál Martin, in February 2000, only got underway in March 2001. It took almost a year to obtain accommodation for the inquiry and difficulties were also experienced in getting suitable staff.
Campaign group, Parents for Justice (PFJ), said the C&AG’s report clearly showed that Mr Martin knew the inquiry was not going to work in October 2002 when he refused their request to put it on a statutory footing.
At that stage, and at a time when the cost of the inquiry had run to €5.4m, PFJ decided to withdraw from it because they knew the inquiry was failing to do its job.