At the beginning of December 2015, Deputy Tommy Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on concerns that Dáil Éireann does not have an Estimates Committee as is the norm in other European Union democracies and the steps he was taking with the Ceann Comhairle, An Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance to establish such a committee. The Parliamentary Question was in response to the OECD report which found that our Oireachtas budget oversight was ‘under-developed by international standards’, yet the question was disallowed by Ceann Comhairle, Seán Barrett, who stated that “the Minister has no official responsibility to Dáil Éireann for this matter which is a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas itself”.
Deputy Broughan challenged the disallowing of this question and contacted the Oireachtas Library and Research Service to begin a brief research paper on the topic. This informative research paper shows that approximately 40% of OECD countries have some sort of budget committee and that there are arguments for the importance of such committees in particular when given significant powers ex ante budget and setting sectoral committee spending limits. Ireland’s focus has been on ex post budget scrutiny vis-à-vis the Public Accounts Committee; however the recent OECD report recommends the establishment and implementation of an Estimates Committee comprising the Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and chairs of other select committees.
Deputy Broughan says “I have always believed that Ireland needed much greater pre-Budget scrutiny and now the OECD report backs up this belief. Why must the Government and subsequent Departments be so reactive? Surely it would be much more beneficial and efficient for annual expenditure planning for Departments to have input into an oversight Committee and in some countries there are even public hearings on administrative units. I asked the Oireachtas Library and Research Service to prepare a brief paper on Estimate and Budget Committees encompassing best practice for the establishment and management of such a committee as it is something that I would like to bring forward to the 32nd Dáil should I be re-elected by my constituents of Dublin Bay North”.