DÁIL PQ WITH THE MINISTER FOR PER ON GOVERNMENT SPENDING

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his Department’s interaction with the main spending Departments; the Departments that are close to profile in 2018; the Departments that are below or above their budget 2018 expenditure profiles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21623/18]

Given the issues with the weather this year, the cervical cancer screening scandal, the forthcoming visit of the Pope and ongoing problems in the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality, among others, are Departments constantly in contact with the Minister to seek more money? I notice that in their Votes Departments have less of a buffer this year than in previous years. Are they close to profile in spending? When we received the stability programme update, I believe expenditure on housing was below profile. The members of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight believe more spending and more resources are required in the area of health. Is this something that concerns the Minister? Will we have Supplementary Estimates for the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe

Managing the delivery of public services within budgetary allocations is the responsibility of every Department and Minister. My Department is in regular contact with all Departments and offices to ensure expenditure is being managed within the overall budgetary parameters. The draw-down of funds from the Exchequer is reported every month in the Fiscal Monitor published by the Department of Finance.

As set out in the most recent publication, total gross voted expenditure at end of April was €19.216 billion. This was €74 million, or 0.4%, below profile. Gross voted current expenditure, at €18 billion, was 1.1% ahead of profile. Timing issues related to child benefit and Garda pension payments, profiled for payment at the start of May but brought forward to April, accounted for a significant portion of the variance. As outlined in the April report, it arose as the Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross settlement Express Transfer, TARGET, system was closed on 1 May due to it being a European public holiday. The timing issues will reverse in May. Health expenditure, at €5.15 billion, was 1.4% above profile. Gross voted capital expenditure, at €1.1 billion, was 19% below profile but up €190 million, or 20%, versus April 2017. The key driver was that capital expenditure in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government was running at €158 million behind profile. This was largely due to a delay in drawing down payments for Irish Water. It is anticipated that the draw-downs will be completed in the coming months, bringing expenditure back into line with profile

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

As the Deputy will be aware, sound public finances are necessary to underpin sustainable economic growth. This requires that overall expenditure be managed effectively. To support this goal, my Department has been engaging with a range of Departments on year two of the spending review process, with a view to reinforcing a systematic analysis of existing spending programmes, focusing on an assessment of efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

I thank the Minister. I asked him yesterday about the summer economic statement, but we did not have time to discuss it. Will we have the statement at the end of June in order that the committees of the House will be able to have a proper chance to have an input into the budget?

The Minister mentioned expenditure on housing as being below profile and that the delay in the draw-down for Irish Water was one of the reasons for it. That is a matter of grave concern. The Committee on Budgetary Oversight had a lengthy discussion on the health budget, which seemed to be at least €800 million short of the resources required, based on an analysis by civic society groups such as Social Justice Ireland. We are all aware of the enormous pressures within the health service. The Secretary General of the Department of Health told me at one of the meetings that health spending would always be rationed. That was his approach, which is interesting, given the deficiencies in the Department of Health. I could also mention other Departments. Will there be any Supplementary Estimate to cover the cost of implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, to achieve what we have committed to achieving?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe

I am confident that within the resources available to the different Departments the commitments we have made in the ratification of the UN convention can be met for this year. It is a key priority for the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Finian McGrath, and I will certainly work with him to make available what is needed for implementation of the convention next year.

When the Secretary General referred to rationing, the point he was making – correctly – was that every single Department had a budget for the year. On the calls for further resources for the health service, we have to recognise that the total allocation for the Department of Health this year is €14.9 billion, an increase of 3.6% from last year. It was a very significant increase on what was already a very large budget.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

I welcome the Minister’s comments on the UN convention, but will there be additional funding this year to begin the implementation of ideas that civic society and disability groups have put to committees of the House? The problem in the health service is that acute waiting lists are growing. Yesterday the leader of the Labour Party spoke about the waiting lists for cataract operations. There is a litany of such problems. I am sure the Minister sees constituents about the matter of early intervention and assessments, as I do. There may well be a huge gap in that area also. Is the reality that we will have to have Supplementary Estimates in the areas of health, disability services, justice and social protection, among others? Does the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform have any process under way wherein it is looking at the formulation of budgets, starting in 2019, to ensure all line Ministers will have enough resources to do the jobs we want them to do?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe

Every single line Minister and Department will always want more resources. The Deputy asked me whether I was contacted about the allocation of additional resources. I am – all of the time. Every Minister wants to do his or her best for citizens to whom they have a responsibility. It is my job to try to meet those needs out of the resources available to us. I will work with the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, to meet needs in the disability sector. It is an issue on which I have worked with him in the past when he looked for my support in making funds available to promote assisted decision-making. I made funding available in budget 2018 and have tried to meet the requests he has made to support requirements in the disability sector.