Finance Department 'failed to tighten belt' on purchases
THE Department of Finance was criticised last night for failing to get savings on the multibillion-euro bill for goods, services and capital projects.
It spent €16.3bn last year -- and the current spend for this year is said to be "in or around" the same figure, at a time when the deficit in the public finances is €18.5bn.
If the Government is unable to achieve more savings in this area, it will increase the likelihood of tax increases and cuts to other public services in the December Budget.
At the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), chairman Bernard Allen said he was quite surprised that there had not been a "line-by-line" examination of spending on goods, services and capital projects by the Department of Finance.
"We have been told by experts that a 10pc saving is achievable if proper practices are followed. Just a 10pc saving would bring a €1bn help-out to the Government in reaching its targets," he said.
Earlier, Department of Finance official Deirdre Hanlon said that while she did not have the exact figures for public procurement for 2010, it was "in or around" the €16.3bn spent last year.
"It is fair to say the 2009 figure is an indicator of 2010," she said.
The public procurement bill covers everything from the construction of new schools to office stationery to patient drugs to garda car tyres.
However, a Department of Finance spokesman said there would be a reduction in the public procurement bill this year -- although precise figures were not yet available.
And he said there had been substantial savings with tenders on capital projects (which account for €7bn of the spend) were coming in one-third below previous levels and the HSE spending bill (which accounts for €5bn of the spend) also coming down substantially.
The PAC also heard that the State spent at least €115m last year on legal fees -- but had not yet looked at a system of getting more competitive tenders across the public service.