Written Answers. - Government Estimates and Accounts.

Peadar Clohessy

Question:

15 Mr. Clohessy asked the Minister for Finance the proposals, if any, he has, statutory or otherwise, to make changes in the annual budget process, the publication of Estimates and the in-system of public finance and accounting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17886/95]

A joint working group, representative of my Department and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, put forward recommendations last year proposing changes in the annual accounts of Government Departments. These accounts, the Appropriation Accounts, are presented to the Dáil annually and examined by the Committee of Public Accounts. The working group's report was referred to the committee, because of their interest in the matter, and the committee, having considered it, accepted the recommendations. These are to be implemented on a phased basis over a three-year period, starting with the 1994 accounts. The 1994 accounts, which were published in conjunction with the annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, are now available in the Library. Paragraph 1 of the reports sets out the main revisions which have been made, while a statement of the accounting policies and principles followed in the preparation and audit of the accounts is also included.

Since the joint working group reported, the strategic management initiative has been launched and, in that context, further consideration is being given to financial management systems in Government Departments. In addition, a pilot project on accrual accounting is under way, with the assistance of a commercial accountancy firm, in the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications. It is expected that the results of this project will be available early next year.

Existing statutory requirements specify that Government accounting shall be on a cash basis. The changes already introduced and those at present contemplated will enhance the cash information rather than replace it. Accordingly, no amending legislation has or will be required at this stage. My Department will keep the House informed, by way of the Committee of Public Accounts, of any further significant changes that may be under consideration.
With regard to the annual budget, the Deputy can be assured that the preparation and presentation of the budget is reviewed on an ongoing basis as is the publication of the Estimates. I will continue to monitor the situation with a view to implementing further improvements where necessary.