Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (173)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

174 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will ring-fence criminal assets bureau-confiscated money for a community development fund. [4291/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

From time to time it has been suggested that the proceeds of crime seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau should be used to fund community programmes. It is an issue on which officials from my Department have previously consulted with the Department of Finance. While it is accepted that there may be some symbolic value in the suggestion, it is problematic and raises a number of particular difficulties. The Constitution requires and Government accounting principles provide that public monies be spent only as voted or approved by Dáil Éireann unless otherwise provided by statute.

A policy of ring-fencing monies obtained by the Exchequer and the reallocation of same for a specific purpose runs contrary to the normal Estimates process. Under this process, revenue which has been accumulated by the Criminal Assets Bureau is paid into the Government's Central Fund. It is this Central Fund from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment. While allowing for a very small number of very specific targeted exceptions, it is believed that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would, in general, constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy.

It could also be argued that a significant proportion of the monies secured by the Bureau are already owed to the Exchequer as it often relates to non-payment of taxes and social welfare fraud. There are also very practical difficulties with the proposal as the variable and uncertain nature of the value of the assets seized by the Bureau in any given year in addition to the potential delays through the possibility of legal challenge to court disposal orders is problematic in terms of the provision of ongoing funds to community programmes. Such a revenue source would not facilitate the proper planning of such programmes by organisations involved in the delivery of community development services. There is also the problem of additional costs which would accrue in the administration of any scheme to divert such funds to local programmes and additional administrative costs without any additional revenues being generated.