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Dormant Accounts Fund Administration

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 12 June 2013

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Questions (8)

Robert Troy

Question:

8. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the amount of money sanctioned from the Dormant Accounts Fund for projects in the past three years 2011, 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28056/13]

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Oral answers (20 contributions) (Question to Environment)

Under the dormant accounts legislation, balances in dormant accounts with banks, building societies and An Post and the net encashment value of certain life assurance policies are paid into the Dormant Accounts Fund, which is managed by the National Treasury Management Agency.

I know that Deputy Ó Cuív is familiar with this reply from a previous occasion, so I will cut to the chase. From its establishment in April 2003 to the end of April 2013, transfers to the Dormant Accounts Fund have totalled some €716 million, which includes interest earned of approximately €39 million. Funds reclaimed in that period by account holders amounted to around €257 million. Disbursements to a total value of €278 million have been approved, with €251 million already spent on projects designed to benefit the community over the same period. The amount of funding disbursed from the Dormant Accounts Fund by the National Treasury Management Agency for existing projects was €8.4 million in 2011, €4.16 million in 2012, and to date in 2013, just €37,556. However, I have allocated €6.385 million for dormant accounts measures this year, which includes €2.835 million to be used to support labour activation measures in local authorities in 2013.

I was wondering for a while there if the Minister was answering the question asked, because I did not ask for the history of the Dormant Accounts Fund.

I did not give the Deputy the history. I cut all of that out. I spared us all.

The Minister could have cut all of it out.

I did cut it out.

Can we have a question for the Minister, please?

Can the Minister tell me how much he approved for projects in 2011, 2012 and 2013? He gave me the 2013 figure of €6.385 million, but-----

I gave the Deputy the figures.

The Minister only gave me the disbursement figures for 2011 and 2012. I am asking how much was approved for projects in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The question was very specific and simple.

Further to that, would the Minister accept that he is sitting on a fund of almost €100 million, excluding the reserve, that was specifically taken from financial institutions to assist programmes tackling social and economic disadvantage, educational disadvantage and disabilities? By not allocating that money, the Minister effectively has his hand in the pockets of dormant account holders, because he is taking their money from the financial institutions but not giving it to the groups involved. He is actually robbing them of this money.

Due to decisions Deputy Ó Cuív made when he was a member of Government, it is part of the general Government debt, which has a ceiling set by the EU, the IMF and ECB. It is counted as part of our national debt and we cannot breach the ceiling because of the activities of Deputy Ó Cuív's party when in government. Unfortunately, for accounting purposes, as the Deputy well knows, it is deemed to be a liability on the State.

I have actually disbursed the moneys that I spoke about in my reply. I have approved and disbursed those funds. All of the money was spent - a total of €8.4 million in 2011 and €4.16 million in 2012 - including in five areas to which Deputy Ó Cuív promised to extend dormant accounts funding when he was in power, although he did not allocate any money to them. I allocated the money, unlike Deputy Ó Cuív. I have allocated an even higher figure for this year, of €6.385 million.

The allocations, of approximately €8 million, €4 million and €6 million, total €18 million over three years. I am glad the Minister raised the issue of the general Government balance because when the Bill was going through the House and in parliamentary questions since its passage, I asked him whether he intended to change the law so that there would not be a liability on the State for all of this money. This year, again, the money coming in exceeds the disbursements. I ask again, therefore, if it is the Minister's intention to free up this money by making a simple change to the law. Such a change would provide that only the reserves and the money coming in are a liability for the State and that all of the other moneys, back to the point at which the dormant accounts process started, would not continue to be a liability for the Exchequer. If the Minister made that simple change, he would be able to free up €100 million.

The Dormant Accounts Fund has been very good to many areas of the country, including my own. The Minister made reference to the fact that the Dormant Accounts Fund comprises a number of different accounts. Are prize bonds included at all? I know there are countless bonds sitting in drawers and elsewhere for many years. Nobody seems to know what is happening in this regard and there is no paper trail, as such, for many of the bonds. Has that ever been examined in terms of a potential source of funding or is there some legal impediment involved?

I am not sure about prize bonds, but I will check that out for the Deputy. If there is a pot of gold there, I would be glad to avail of it. However, on the Dormant Accounts Fund, it is not a simple matter of €100 million being available, as Deputy Ó Cuív is trying to imply. I can assure all Deputies that if €100 million were available to me, I would be spending it.

The Minister can make it available.

I cannot make it available and the Deputy knows that.

He can make it available.

The Deputy knows that better than most, given the time he spent in government. He knows it must have the approval of the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, but he chooses to ignore that now that he is in opposition. This is not unusual for Deputy Ó Cuív. He has changed his mind on many issues in opposition.

I know exactly what I would do.

It cannot be done without the approval of the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is counted as part of the general Government debt and I am not in a position to amend that.

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