Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Ceisteanna (62)

Barry Cowen


62. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the Supplementary Estimates that will be required in 2019 based on current information; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39878/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Public)

Deputy Cowen has 30 seconds to introduce his question.

I will use those 30 seconds after the Minister replies to it.

Managing expenditure within allocations is a key responsibility of every Department and Minister. A number of measures are in place to ensure that expenditure and budgetary targets are being achieved on an ongoing basis. There is regular reporting to Government on expenditure levels and expenditure profiles, which are published every month. The drawdown of funds from the Exchequer is monitored throughout the year and reported on against profile on a monthly basis in the Fiscal Monitor.

As set out in the most recent Fiscal Monitor, total gross voted expenditure at end-August was €42.015 billion. This is €262 million, or 0.6%, below profile. Gross voted expenditure is 0.3% below profile. Of the 17 ministerial Vote groups, 14 are on or below profile on current expenditure for the end of August. Gross voted capital expenditure is €130 million, or 3.7%, below profile but up €683 million, or a quarter percentage versus the same period a year ago. The end of September figures will be published later this week.

Due to the scale of Government expenditure, which is over €66 billion in aggregate for 2019, and the cash basis of Government accounting, the need for Supplementary Estimates can arise for a number of reasons. This includes in-year policy decisions, timing issues, overspends in particular areas and the need to respond to emerging events where Departments do not have the scope to deliver offsetting savings.

The key issues that were highlighted in the mid-year expenditure report include where we are with the health sector and, in particular, expenditure pressures in the Department of Justice and Equality arising from pressures regarding asylum seeker accommodation.

I thank the Minister for his response. In the event of a Supplementary Estimate being required and based on the fact that since 2012 €6.3 billion in total has been used - I presume from corporation tax revenue - to meet those Estimates, will the Minister go down that road again in respect of corporation tax revenue or will he put that to the basic figures next year?

I did not catch the last part of what the Deputy said.

In the absence of using revenue from corporation tax receipts, how does the Minister intend to meet the Estimate if a Supplementary Estimate is required? Will it be from underspends going into next year?

It will be a combination of a number of different things. At this point in time, I am confident that our level of Supplementary Estimates will certainly be reduced versus where we were a year ago. They were at a very high level a year ago and I said at that time that the total volume of underspends and the way they materialised so quickly was not acceptable.

In terms of how we will pay for it, there will be three ways. First, with respect to what we can do to reduce the level of Supplementary Estimate for this year, a huge amount of work has gone into that to date. The second is whether over-delivery on certain tax heads later on in the year will cover the Supplementary Estimate. The third is our ability to pay for any Supplementary Estimates out of the overall budgetary framework that is included in the summer economic statement.

At this stage, the Minister sees no impact on the 2020 figures as a result of any Supplementary Estimate that might be required.

It could have an effect because it depends on how we treat those figures. What has happened in the past, for which I have been criticised, is the level of Supplementary Estimate that has been brought into the base that was spent and then the budget day package came on top of that. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has been critical of two things. First, it has been critical of the level of total Supplementary Estimates and, second, it has been critical of them being brought into the base and then the budget day package being on top of that. In the coming days, I will need to see what is the best way of managing this issue for 2019 and 2020.