12 Aib 2021, 15.00

The Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) has made two recommendations around Government accounting processes following separate examinations of issues raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General in his audits of the 2019 accounts for the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).

In its report published today, Examination of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s and the Department of Finance’s 2019 Appropriation Accounts and Related Financial Matters, the Committee recommends that:

  • The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform provides to the Committee by the end of quarter three 2021 a timeline for the completion of the incorporation of accrual accounting principles in the State’s financial reporting; and
  • In order to complete the outstanding Financial Statements for the Credit Union Restructuring Board, the Department of Finance conducts the tender process for external accounting advice without delay.

Deputy Brian Stanley, Chairman of PAC, said: “These recommendations follow examinations by the Committee last year of matters raised by the C&AG in his 2019 Appropriation Accounts and reports for both Departments.

“During our examination of DPER’s accounts in October 2020, the Committee discussed the State’s unique approach to financial management. The State uses a cash-based record of receipts and payments made by a Government department in an individual year, which are published alongside the Budget for that year and the figures for the previous year for comparative purposes.

“In 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recommended that the State improve its financial reporting by incorporating elements of accrual accounting. This would include the maintenance of a State balance sheet that would present the State’s net worth, including its liquid assets and continuous liabilities, essentially providing a more wholistic picture of the State’s finances.

“DPER told the Committee that the approach recommended by the OECD has been accepted by Government and that the changes required will be implemented on a phased basis. However, the Committee remains concerned that DPER could not provide a clear timeline for the implementation of the necessary reforms to move to accrual accounting and requested a detailed timeline by the end of quarter three this year, as well as annual progress updates.  While this is a technical recommendation, it is important as it relates to the provision of increased transparency and accountability in our public finances.”

The Committee examined the 2019 appropriation accounts of the Department of Finance in November 2020, focusing on Vote 7 – Office of the Minister for Finance, as well as chapters from the 2019 Report on the Accounts of the Public Service on the Ireland Apple Escrow Fund and the Exchequer Financial Outturn for 2019, referred to as the Central Fund.

During its examination of the Finance accounts, the Committee identified an issue around the lack of published accounts for the Credit Union Restructuring Board since 2016.

Deputy Stanley said: “As the Committee understands it, the draft 2017 Financial Statements were submitted to the C&AG for audit in 2018. However, the Department has not been able to reconcile a note to the accounts to the satisfaction of the C&AG and therefore, the audit has not been completed. This issue has also delayed the audit of the 2018 draft accounts as it cannot be undertaken until the 2017 accounts have been closed.

“The Department told the Committee that it has taken the decision to procure external accounting advice to assist in completing the audit and that the tender process would commence shortly. The Committee remains unsatisfied with this situation and is of the opinion that it must be resolved promptly to ensure proper oversight of State funds can take place.

“As well as completing the tender process for external accounting advice without delay, the Committee recommends that the tender contract includes a specific date for the provision of the advice and that the Department submits the accounts for audit by the C&AG within three months of the advice being received.”

The PAC is a standing committee of Dáil Éireann which focuses on ensuring public services are run efficiently and achieve value for money

The PAC Report Examination of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s and the Department of Finance’s 2019 Appropriation Accounts and Related Financial Mattersis available on the Oireachtas website.

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Brian Stanley - Cathaoirleach

Sinn Féin