MINISTER FOR FINANCE Michael Noonan has revealed that the Department of Finance was informed in August 2010 about the €3.6 billion accounting error in the Irish national debt – but did nothing about it.
Noonan blamed “human error on behalf of one individual” for the embarrassing mistake which came to light yesterday.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Noonan said that an email was sent to “a particular person in the Department of Finance” 15 months ago to query the rogue figure. However according to the Minister “the significance was not appreciated at the time” and the email was never acted upon.
The mail was sent by the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which manages assets and liabilities on behalf of the Irish Government.
Instead the mistake was only spotted when the NTMA sent a second email to a different official when preliminary discussions were under way for December’s budget.
Noonan told the Dáil that he has ordered a report by the secretary-general of the Department of Finance into how the mistake was made. He has also announced an external review of how the systems failure took place within that particular section of the department.
The Finance Minister described the mistake, which saw €3.6 billion in the state funds counted twice in the government finances, as a “humiliating schoolboy error”.
Noonan was responding to a question from Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath during the Topical Questions time in the Dáil.