THE DEPARTMENT OF Jobs has defended its budget underspend for the first nine months of this year as unemployment figures yesterday showed the rate of joblessness was virtually unchanged.
Exchequer figures released on Tuesday showed that the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation underspent its estimated budget to the end of September of €499 million by 17 per cent or around €85 million.
This includes €16 million designated for current expenditure and €69 million in expenditure on capital projects that was not spent, the third highest amount in percentage terms of any government department after the Departments of Communications and Environment.
The figures were followed yesterday by news from the Central Statistics Office that 400 people had come off the Live Register in September, a statistically insignificant change as the number of those unemployed stayed at 14.8 per cent.
The Department insisted yesterday that any assessment of its performance must relate to the level of services delivered and not the amount of money spent.
“In this context, it is important to note that well over 90 per cent of the measures committed to be delivered under the Action Plan for Jobs have been delivered on time, and that both Enterprise Ireland and IDA are performing well in terms of exports and job creation so far in 2012,” a statement said.
Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín was critical of the government following the release of the latest Live Register numbers and said that the underspend of €69 million was “astounding” when skilled trades workers were on the dole or else emigrating.
“It is now clear that the Ministers must take responsibility for their underperforming department and the government take responsibility for getting our people back to work,” he said in a statement yesterday.
In its statement to TheJournal.ie, the Department added: “The Department adopts a careful and prudent approach in relation to the spending of taxpayers’ money.
“Issues in relation to the timing of expenditure mean that some spending which was scheduled to take place by this particular point in the year has not yet been drawn down.
“However it is expected that this snapshot statistic will not be reflected in the end of year figure. For example, the new Microfinance Scheme, as launched by Minister Bruton on 27th September, is now open for business which will have associated exchequer expenditure of €10m before year end.”