The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) provides independent and impartial information, analysis and advice to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Why was the PBO established?
The need for the office was identified by the OECD in its review of budget oversight by the Irish Parliament. The Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Dáil Reform, in its final report in May 2016, recommended that the office be established.
Established in 2017, the PBO provides tailored support, advice and analysis on economic and fiscal matters to the Houses of the Oireachtas, its members and committees as they to fulfil their role in approving and providing oversight of the Irish State’s finances. In particular it supports the Committee on Budgetary Oversight as it conducts ex-ante scrutiny of budgetary matters. The PBO was put on a statutory basis in the Houses of Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Act 2018 and has an external advisory group to advise on technical matters.
The Fiscal Council and the PBO
The PBO is one of two independent fiscal institutions in Ireland, the other being the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. In contrast to the PBO, the Fiscal Council is focused on certain legislated assessments and making these public: endorsing the Government’s macroeconomic projections, assessing its forecasts, monitoring compliance with fiscal rules, and assessing the Government’s overall fiscal stance.
The PBO has a director, Annette Connolly, and an acting deputy director, Barry Comerford. It has a small number of teams headed by an Assistant Principal acting as team leader and reporting to the deputy director. The PBO covers subjects such as budgetary research and analysis (including analysis of expenditure and tax), economic research, the management of the public finances and EU semester and fiscal rules. The structure is subject to change and will evolve as the PBO develops its services.
As director, Annette Connolly has overall responsibility for establishing, developing and leading the PBO. Previously, Annette was head of the central expenditure management policy unit at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Annette is a Designated Public Official under the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015; see the Register of Lobbying.
Barry Comerford is acting deputy director while Denise O’Connell is on leave. Barry Comerford has held various positions in the Houses of the Oireachtas Service including in the Library & Research Service as researcher and senior researcher in economics and as Assistant Principal in the PBO. He was acting head of library and research services in the Houses of the Oireachtas Service between March 2019 and March 2020. Denise O’Connell formerly worked in the Department of Finance in various roles including tax policy, economics and budgetary matters. Denise has also worked in the Department of Health. She will return as deputy director of the PBO in May 2021.
External advisory group
The PBO’s external advisory group (EAG) is a group of academic and private sector experts who help the PBO with pro-bono technical and methodological assistance. The establishment of the EAG was agreed by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in April 2018 and is consistent with the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Principles for Independent Fiscal Institutions (2014) which recommends that independent fiscal institutions develop a mechanism for external evaluation of their work. The first meeting of the EAG took place on Monday, 25 June 2018.
The full membership of the EAG is:
- Chair Robert Chote (Office for Budget Responsibility, UK)
- Dr. Alan Barrett (ESRI)
- Dr. Micheál Collins (UCD)
- Ms. Megan Greene (Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School)
- Ms. Dervla McCormack (Partner PwC (Republic of Ireland))
- Dr. Stephen Kinsella* (UL)
* Dr. Stephen Kinsella replaced Dr. Alan Ahearne (NUI Galway) who was a member of the EAG from June 2018 to August 2020.
The EAG meets at least once per annum. The latest meeting of the EAG took place virtually on 30 June 2020.
Parliamentary Budget Office