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Here's where Ireland overspent by €1.118 billion on last year's Budget

Nine Departments and agencies needed extra top-ups to their funding in 2012. Here’s where the overflow went.

Overspending at the Departments of Joan Burton (back, left) and James Reilly (back, second from right) meant Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan (front row) needed to make alternative arrangements.
Overspending at the Departments of Joan Burton (back, left) and James Reilly (back, second from right) meant Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan (front row) needed to make alternative arrangements.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

EARLIER THIS WEEK it was revealed that the Department of Social Protection would need €685 million than had originally been assigned for it in last year’s Budget, in order to continue paying welfare.

The news was revealed on the same day as Budget 2013, when the spending allocations for various agencies and Departments were revealed – and showed that the Department of Social Protection would see its spending fall by €1 billion in 2013.

Fianna Fáil, in its response to the Budget speeches, claimed that the 2012 spending allocations had been breached nine times – with a total overrun of €1.118 billion.

We’ve gone back through the various ‘supplementary estimates’, as they’re known, and discovered that the claim is accurate.

Here are the various agencies that overspent, and the explanations given in each case.

Note: In many cases, extra spending had to be approved only as a matter of procedure: Oireachtas spending rules mean that each different ‘vote’, or category of spending, must have any increase approved – even if the money is actually being funded through

Social Protection: €685 million

Explaining the need for extra funds earlier this week, Joan Burton said that most of the extra money was going towards paying for Jobseeker’s Allowance and for contributions to the Social Insurance Fund.

Both categories have seen higher-than-expected spending this year, as the government had not expected unemployment to remain so high throughout the year.

HSE: €360 million

The difficulties of the HSE are well-known at this point. Having committed to a series of ambitious cost-cutting measures at the start of the year, James Reilly found that the sheer workload of the agency, and the commitment to leave frontline services unvouched for as long as possible, meant the savings could not be found.

Without the €360 million to tie it over to the end of the year, the HSE would simply run out of cash – and be forced to start cutting services altogether.

Pay and pensions for the military: €30 million

Alan Shatter said the army pensions bill for 2012 was likely to hit €238 million, more than the €207.9 million originally outlined for it – almost entirely as a result of the wave of public sector retirements ahead of the February deadline for favourable tax treatment.

However, there had been savings in the Department of Defence Budget which meant the overall overrun wouldn’t make a dent in the government’s bottom line.

Public pensions and allowances: €25 million

Similar story here. The numbers who retired ahead of the February 29 deadline were higher than anticipated, so the government needed slightly more than first anticipated to keep up with their monthly pensions payments.

Garda salaries and pensions: €8.5 million; Courts service: €5 million

Alan Shatter told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that these individual financial allocations would be offset by savings of €17 million from within his own Department.

The Garda bill was bigger than expected because Garda retirement rates are notoriously difficult to predict, because members can retire either once they turn 50, or after 30 years of service. The Budget estimated that 375 would retire and get lump sums, but the actual number was about 470.

The budget of the Courts Service, meanwhile, took a dent because of an unexpected drop-off in court fees. The overall level of fees was increased last year, but there were higher-than-expected number of fee exemption orders handed down.

Transport, Tourism and Sport: €4 million

The overspend here was largely as a result of the financial difficulties at CIE. The national subvention to the transport operator was increased by €36 million earlier in the year, and this was offset predominantly by cutbacks and savings in the National Transport Authority, the coast guard and the National Sports Campus.

Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation: €2,000; Environment, Community and Local Government: €1,000

These were largely procedural, and were approved only to allow money to be moved between projects inside each Department. Budget procedure deals in millions and billions, meaning that the smallest possible unit of allocation is €1,000.

In each of these cases, the minimum €1,000 in extra funding was sought in order to make it possible to take funds from within one ‘sub-vote’ – categories of spending within each larger financial allocation.

Total extra funding allocation: €1,117.5 million

Read: TheJournal.ie‘s full coverage of Budget 2013

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Gavan Reilly

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