By Harry McGee, Political Editor
THE Government will spend €50 million less on its decentralisation programme this year than it provided for in the Budget.
However, the Department of Finance yesterday insisted the drop in expenditure could not be taken as a downgrading of the politically sensitive project.
The Finance spokesman told the Irish Examiner that less money will be spent to decentralise Government departments than envisaged last December due to a number of factors. One was timing - some projects will not need money to be released until 2007. In addition, the spokesman said, some properties will be leased rather than bought; a "very competitive tendering process had also led to some savings".
The €50 million allocation has been deferred until 2007.
The reduction emerged as part of yesterday’s Revised Estimates published by Minister for Finance Brian Cowen.
Yesterday’s document takes into account expenditure measures (including that on childcare and social welfare) included in the Budget. However, the revised estimates contained no adjustment in expenditure for the Department of Health. In January, the minister came into the Dáil to admit that the Department of Health’s capital carryover figure of €56 million was not correct.
Under sustained pressure from the opposition, the Government said the Health Service Executive may have miscalculated its 2005 out-turn, suggesting the surplus of €56m may not exist.
According to Mr Cowen, the reason no adjustment was made yesterday was that the HSE will not be in a position to clarify the true extent of its capital spending until the end of March.
He said yesterday that if required, he would bring forward a supplementary estimate to cover the shortfall. That aspect of the revised estimates came under criticism in the Dáil yesterday.