Money for nothing: New report highlights spending failures by Government departments

Government departments and bodies are paying money for nothing in a scandalous waste of public cash.

At the same time, they are letting some of the wealthiest people in the country away with declaring taxable income below the average industrial wage.

The glaring failures in the management of money due to and spent by the Government are highlighted by the State spending watchdog in a damning annual report.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy found that the Department of Children squandered €16m renting new headquarters it left empty for almost a year and a half because staff were squabbling over the layout of the accommodation.

He discovered contracts worth tens of millions of euro were being routinely awarded for goods and services without going through proper tender procedures, and that lax payroll management was resulting in salary and pension overpayments to thousands of civil and public servants.

Mr McCarthy also asked how the Garda overtime budget managed to more than treble in three years, and described attempts by the force’s management to control it as “ineffective”.

He also highlighted how failure to eradicate the trade in illegal cigarettes had cost the exchequer €214m in lost revenue in a year.

Other questions for the Revenue Commissioners centre on the ability of 120 of the 480 wealthiest people in Ireland to pay tax on income declared to be below the average industrial wage.

Failure to spend allocated budgets is also a theme of the annual report with numerous departments handing back tens of millions at the end of the year despite growing demand for services. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs had a surplus of €58.7m it handed back to the exchequer last year.

Some €3.6m of the €4.55m Magdalene Fund remained unspent too, mainly because of delays commencing legislation. Meanwhile, the Hep C fund for people infected through contaminated blood products ran out of funds.

Mr McCarthy also expressed concern at the lack of statutory regulation of approved housing bodies, which had received €1.5bn in public funds, and at the lack of oversight over €320m in payments to early years childcare providers.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Sean Fleming, said he was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” by some of the details in the 1,250 pages of findings. 

Mr Fleming said he will be seeking explanations.

“All the matters highlighted by the CAG in his annual report will be examined in detail by the PAC as part of its work programme,” he said.

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