HEALTH Minister Mary Harney has budgeted to spend an extra €603,000 on outside advisers this year — as desperate carers for the disabled battle to prevent their respite help being slashed.
The Health Department accounts for a third of the €1.81 million or more earmarked for private consultancy firms in 2010, above what was spent last year, according to new figures compiled by Fine Gael.
This will see Health’s budget for commercial advisors reach €1,178,000 (just over double that spent in 2009) at a time when the Government is in a bitter tussle with families protesting against cuts to disabled services.
The figures are from analysis of the revised Government estimates and Fine Gael shadow cabinet member Simon Coveney said it showed funding was being locked into areas where it may not be spent.
“I think it is warped to keep this kind of money away from frontline services at a time when the Government is cutting back on respite care for the disabled.
“This is a matter of priorities. Why keep these budgets so large this year? A lot of this stuff could be done in-house by the departments themselves,” he said.
A Department of Health spokesman accused Fine Gael of not comparing like with like. “This is an accounting procedure which Fine Gael do not seem to understand. They should compare the budget figure from last year with the budget figure for this year.”
Green Minister Eamon Ryan’s Energy Department has a consultancy budget of €1,771,000 for this year — €1,032,000 more than it spent last year.
A spokesman for Mr Ryan defended the sums. “This money was allocated for important work. What would Fine Gael like us to cut — work to enable disabled people greater access to emergency call, environmental safety on the Corrib gas project, rural broadband outreach? They should let people know,” he said.
Most departments registered modest increases or small falls in their projected consultancy budgets for 2010 with Justice down €61,000 to €109,000 and Transport down €123,000 to €600,000.
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