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Sunday 26 March 2017

Coughlan under fire over spending on schools

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is under fire this weekend as new figures reveal that less than a quarter of the schools' building budget was spent in the first six months.

With many school buildings in poor condition, Fine Gael said it was due to "gross incompetence" that the department only spent €135m, out of a total budget of €578m, since January 1.

While a further €78m has been rolled out since June, Fine Gael's former education spokesman Brian Hayes said: "It's bad enough that the Government are now reneging on the National Development Plan, but the example of school buildings shows that they cannot even spend the money they are given, because of gross incompetence."

The senator added: "If this trend of expenditure continues between now and December, the Department of Education will have to hand back to the Department of Finance unspent funds for school buildings. This happened last year and is likely to happen again this year."

Controversially, more than €100m has been "wasted" on temporary accommodation over the last three years, most of it on prefabs that doubled as classrooms.

The department is under fire because of the poor state of many schools around the country, less than three weeks before half a million young people go back to school.

A spokesman for Ms Coughlan said: "The overall expenditure level is on target with the anticipated expenditure predicted to this time of the year.

"Traditionally, expenditure on the capital programme tends to increase in the second half of the year."

Sunday Independent

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