Government to address Garda overspend averaging €50m per year

Government to address Garda overspend averaging €50m per year

The Government is taking steps to try and address the consistent overspend in An Garda Síochána, amounting, on average, to €50m over budget per year.

Garda overtime is considered the main driver of the constant breach, Department of Public Expenditure documents show.

The department has warned that a 185% increase in the overtime bill since 2013 was “not sustainable” and needed to change “very soon”.

Documents released since Budget 2020 said:

The aggregate level of supplementary estimate over the last five years is almost €224m.

It said this had been “driven by overtime”, including visits by foreign dignitaries, an issue that emerged again in 2019 with the two US presidential visits.

The report said the Garda budget was a suitable candidate for multi-annual spending allocation and that there was scope to start “immediate engagement” with all the relevant groups.

It said the total spend on An Garda Síochána stood at €1.76bn in 2018, up 22% on 2014 (€1.44bn).

The report said this reflected the restarting of recruitment, increases in training and travel budgets, overtime, pay rises, and capital spending.

The per capita spend has increased from just over €300 per person in 2014 to around €350 per person in 2018.

The document said that “historically” the Garda budget has required supplementary estimates.

There was a sharp increase in supplementary estimates between 2012 and 2013 (from under €10m to €50m), jumping to €75m in 2014. It dropped to €35m in 2015 and €10m in 2016, before rising sharply again in 2017, to €45m and to almost €60m in 2018.

The total Garda overtime bill reached €132m in 2017.

The Department said at least €20m of the annual overtime bill is court-related, which has proven difficult to address. In addition, a Garda pay deal in 2016, which is funded through overtime, amounted to around €28m, or 21% of overtime expenditure.

The documents said a plan needed to be developed to bring overtime levels, which currently account for 12% of the pay bill, down to the target level of 4%-5% by 2021.

The documents quote CSO figures as showing that, including overtime and allowance, the average annual earnings for gardaí was €65,000 to €70,000.

It said the biggest growth in overtime was in the Dublin region, accounting for 44% of all overtime in 2017, compared to 40% in 2013.

This corresponded with more garda anti-gangland operations, including responding to the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

The overtime bill was €98.5m in 2018 and €95m (so far) in 2019, with the same budgeted for 2020.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said his department, and not the gardaí, would pay the Gardaí back, through a supplementary budget, around €15m for costs of the US presidential visits.

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