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Minister promises proper oversight of €4bn Ireland 2040 funds so money goes to the best bids

The Taoiseach launched new funds today to tackle rural development, urban regeneration, climate action and innovation.

The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohue at the press briefing launch of Ireland Project 2040.
The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohue at the press briefing launch of Ireland Project 2040.
Image: Sam Boal

MINISTER PASCHAL DONOHOE has said there will be sufficient oversight of the new €4 billion funds to tackle rural development, urban regeneration, climate action and innovation.

Joined by his ministers today, the Taoiseach announced four new funds which are part of the €116 billion Project Ireland 2040 investment.

Rather than allocating funding in a ‘business as usual’ way to government departments, these funds will allocate money competitively to the best projects. The funds will be open to applications from state agencies, local government, business, educational institutions, chambers of commerce.

Money for towns and villages

A number of towns and villages are eligible to apply for funds for both urban and rural development. The call for applications will open in the coming weeks.

The breakdown of the funds is as follows:

€2 billion: Urban Regeneration and Development Fund – aimed at encouraging sustainable growth in Ireland’s five cities and other large urban centres.
€1 billion: Rural Development Fund – aimed at supporting job creation in rural areas and support improvements in towns and villages
€500 million: Climate Action Fund – to support initiatives that contribute to the achievement of Ireland’s climate and energy targets.
€500 million: Disruptive Technologies Fund – to be invested in the development and deployment of disruptive innovative technologies

Oversight 

At the press conference today, questions were raised about the allocation of the funds, and whether there will be sufficient checks and balances to ensure that certain constituencies do not reap more benefits than others.

project 2040 338_90546201 Source: Sam Boal

Donohoe said the vast majority of applications will come from local authorities.

All projects will be subject to the public spending code, he explained. A panel is being put in place for each department to provide verification for the minister and to ensure the projects who are successful in getting funding adhere to the code.

Spending money wisely

He said the checks and balances to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely is three-fold.

Each government department will have a panel consisting of senior civil servants and experts in certain areas such as planning or technology. The panel will make recommendations to the minister about how that money should be used.

“And while it is up to the minister to decide, as it is taxpayers money” what the panel recommends will feed into “what the minister decides to do,” said Donohoe.

The minister added that an oversight implementation board, chaired by members of his department and the Housing Department has already been established

Each panel will be required to report back to the board regarding the projects that have been selected and why.

Donohoe said any project that applies for funding must meet the criteria in the Ireland 2040 project.

He said these three steps will “ensure all this monies is invested well”.

In relation to the new Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund, Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher has been critical of it this afternoon, stating that for the first time in 21 years, government ministers and their officials will have a veto on which projects will be awarded funding.

While experts may review applications, it will be ministers and officials who will decide on who will be successful or not.
This is a clear and wilful attempt by this Government to award themselves with more power and influence in what has been a historically politically independent process.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys has said there will be steering group to oversee the fund, and two panels – one of national experts and one of international experts. However, as stated previously, Minister Donohoe acknowledged that ministers will ultimately have the final say.

The Taoiseach told TheJournal.ie that the funding “will go to the best bids… that is what it boils down to”.

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