The introduction to the Revised Estimates mentions that they “have been supplemented with key performance information regarding programme outputs and impacts”. We were also promised that information on key performance indicators would be provided in the 2019 HSE service plan and that a number of post-budget technical and policy adjustments would be included in the Revised Estimates. However, if we examine the expenditure of €66.6 billion in 42 Votes, while there is some useful information on the delivery of spending programmes, we will see the performance metrics for each Vote give little insight into the achievement of the strategy being pursued by each Department of State. That is particularly true for the €52.3 billion or 78% of total Government spending provided for in four key areas – Department of Education and Skills, Vote 26; the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Vote 34; the Department of Health, Vote 38; and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Vote 37.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his departmental spending profiles up to the end of September 2018 in gross voted capital expenditure under Budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43864/18]
I wish to ask the Minister about the gross Votes. Several Deputies noted that spending was under profile, particularly the Votes for housing and environment. That was certainly evident in the last report the Minister gave us. It seems incongruous that capital expenditure is running under profile in areas like housing and health. I welcome the size of the capital budget and that we are beginning at long last to address deficient infrastructure.
Early this year, following an interesting briefing from Fr. Seán Healy and Social Justice Ireland, the Committee on Budgetary Oversight identified the possibility of a serious discrepancy between voted health expenditure and what the HSE’s national service plan was trying to achieve. That has turned out to be the case, with Supplementary Estimates required for the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality once again. The Minister was a member of the Government in 2015 when it effectively disestablished the HSE Vote by taking it back within the Department of Health. Since then, the Government has not been managing it.
As a member of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight I am delighted to strongly endorse this important report, which was launched on 30 May this year. Gender and equality budgeting have been major priorities for our work. I was of course disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, did not present a gender budgeting report alongside budget 2019 on 9 October last, as is recommended in the report before us.
Budget week is always an interesting week. On Tuesday morning, I took part in an Oireachtas TV interview on the work of the Budgetary Oversight Committee and then went in to the Dáil chambers to listen to Minister Paschal Donohoe announce another Budget to benefit the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil elites. Of course, there are some welcome measures including the €5 per week increase in Social Protection payments, €25 increase in the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, the increase in the earnings disregard for working lone parents to €150 and the full restoration of the Christmas Bonus. Resourcing for Housing, Health, Disability and Education however was desperately disappointing and included no measures to address the urgent needs these sectors have.
On behalf of my Independent colleagues and myself, I extend our deepest condolences to the family of Emma Mhic Mhathúna and salute her great courage and dignity.
Yesterday’s budget was, I think, the 12th delivered by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, going back to 2009, and the third of this de facto coalition. One of the constant themes of all those and of the earlier budgets was the widespread use of total Government revenue forgone under the joint policy of tax expenditures, as for example the extra tax relief given yesterday for the Government’s landlord friends. The 2014 Department of Finance report defines tax expenditures as “reducing tax obligations with respect to a benchmark tax rather than by direct expenditure” and “provisions that reduce or postpone revenue for a comparatively narrow population of taxpayers relative to the tax base”, and such expenditures include exemptions, allowances, credits, deferral rules, etc.
Today, during Leaders’ Questions, Deputy Tommy Broughan asked the Taoiseach why it is so difficult for the Parliamentary Budget Office and Budgetary Oversight Committee to access information on certain areas of public expenditure, in particular regarding tax expenditure. Following yesterday’s Budget 2019 announcements, Deputy Broughan focussed on the opaque nature of our tax expenditures for today’s extended Leaders’ Questions. As a member of the Budgetary Oversight Committee, and having produced his own pre-budget submission also, Deputy Broughan raised concerns around the lack of transparency and accountability remaining in our budgetary process.
At the outset, I wish to acknowledge the sterling work and reports of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and the Parliamentary Budget Office during the year.
This budget was framed against a background of several challenges, such as the impact of a possible hard Brexit, trying keep an open border with the North, President Trump’s “America First” policy, our over-reliance on corporation tax from a small number of multinationals, the ongoing desperate housing crisis, health waiting lists and, of course, climate change and all the issues highlighted yesterday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC. The budget that has been presented is, at best, a type of holding exercise. It is a sadly familiar budget and is principally for the elites of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and their supporters in the property industry.
Deputy Tommy Broughan has welcomed some of the measures announced in Budget 2019 today. Increases in Social Protection payments, the full restoration of the Christmas Bonus and further access to free GP care are all very welcome, as is the increased Health Budget of over €17bn. There have also been some increases in expenditure for Housing but the government is still tinkering at the edges of the current crisis.
The past two weeks have been very busy in the Dáil with usual Dáil business and pre-budget briefings and preparation. There have been a number of meetings of the Budgetary Oversight Committee as we finalised our Pre-Budget Report and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, appeared before us for questioning this week. I asked him about whether he was examining the possibility of a state saving scheme and if he would be publishing a full gender-proofing statement alongside budget 2019.