Wednesday 26 April 2017

Child abuse inquiry and redress scheme hugely exceeds original cost estimates

At the end of 2015 religious congregations have only paid €192m of the €760m that the State had expected they would contribute

Seamus McCarthy C&AG
Seamus McCarthy C&AG
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE €1.5bn cost of the the child abuse inquiry and redress scheme has hugely exceeded original estimates, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has found.

It was originally forecast that the redress scheme for survivors of institutional child abuse would cost €250m.

That spiraled to an estimated €1.25bn.

A summary of the report states that "government policy is that the congregations who ran the institutions would share equal liability of the €1.52 billion cost of redress i.e. contribute €760 million" and that "Total contributions offered to date are €406 million less than this."

The report found that at the end of 2015 Religious congregations had only paid €192m.

Meanwhile, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse cost an estimated  €82m, almost €80m more than the original Department of Education forecast of €2.5m.

The final report of the Commission, known as the Ryan report, was published in May 2009.

The findings are contained in a special report by the Comptroller and Auditory General (C&AG) published this morning.

A statement by the C&AG's office on release of the report said that government policy was to pursue the sharing of the cost of redress on a 50:50 basis with the religious congregations.

This would require the congregations to contribute €760 million.

However, to date the congregations have only offered the equivalent of about 23pc of the overall cost and contributions received to the end of 2015 represent just 13pc of the cost.

The statement notes that an indemnity agreement was signed in 2002 between the State and 18 religious congregations, who agreed to contribute to the costs of redress by transferring property, cash and other resources totaling €128 million.

At the end of 2015, €21m of this had yet to be transferred to the State.

The statement said that following the publication of the Ryan Report in 2009, the congregations offered additional cash and property valued at €353m but that this combined offer was revised to €226m in September 2015. Six years after the publication of the Ryan report, only €85m - 38pc - of the €226 million offer has been received by the State.

That revision occurred after the Christian Brothers withdrew an offer of school playing fields and associated lands valued at €127m.

In relation to the Redress scheme, the C&AG found that by the end of 2015 awards to abuse survivors totaling €970m had been made to 15,579 claimants.

The average award was €62,250 and 85pc were below €100,000.

The highest award made was €300,000.

Legal cost payments of €192.9m approved by the Redress Board to be made to 991 legal firms in respect of 15,345 applications.

Seventeen legal firms were paid between €1m and €5m each and seven firms were paid amounts between €5m and €19m each.

The C&AG statement notes that outside of the redress scheme, other supports have been put in place to assist the former residents of the institutions.

The overall spend on health, housing, educational and counselling services is estimated at €176m.

Since 2013, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, better known as Caranua, provides support services to survivors from cash contributed by the religious congregations following the publication of the Ryan report in 2009, the statement said.

The C&AG said that the work of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and of the Redress Board is largely complete and recommend that an evaluation of both would be useful.

"This should identify lessons learned and improvements which can be applied to any future redress schemes and/or commissions of inquiry," the statement said.

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