The Department of Rural and Community Development was established in July 2017 and took over responsibility for the Dormant Account Fund at that time.
The Comptroller and Auditor General examined the operation of the Fund as part of its 2016 work programme and published its findings in September 2017. The findings focused in particular on the administration of the fund, the low level of disbursements from the fund and whether money in the fund could be better applied.
Since then my Department has worked to ensure these issues are addressed and the money in the fund is put to good use.
As recommended by the C&AG a review of the operation of the disbursement scheme was completed and published by my Department in July 2018. The review sets out 15 recommendations to improve the administration and operation of the Fund. An interdepartmental group has been established to assist in ensuring the recommendations are progressed.
The 2018 Dormant Accounts Action Plan was also published in July 2018, and approved funding of up to €39.7 million for 45 different measures across ten different Government Departments. In line with the provisions of the Dormant Accounts Acts, the measures identified in the Action Plan target social, economic and educational disadvantage; and people with a disability. The approved measures will support a wide range of projects and programmes relating to issues such as social inclusion, assisting migrants, support for carers, speech and language therapy, support for dementia sufferers and sports measures. The majority of measures will commence in 2019, subject to voted expenditure being available within each relevant Department.
Good progress is being made and spend from the fund across all Departments totalled €27.8 million in 2018. This is an increase of 78% on the 2017 spend of €15.6 million. My own Department fully utilised its allocation - with €10.1 million spent from the fund in 2018.