Wednesday 16 January 2019

Department of Health accused of having ‘a complete lack of control’ in spending

The Committee on Budgetary Oversight heard that the department has overspent by an estimated 655 million euro.

A general view of St Vincents University Hospital in South Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
A general view of St Vincents University Hospital in South Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

The Department of Health has been accused of having “a complete lack of control or ability to predict expenditure accurately”.

The Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight heard on Wednesday that the department has overspent by an estimated 655 million euro, despite its record budget of 15.3bn euro at the start of the year.

Colm Desmond, from the Department of Health’s finance unit said Ireland’s ageing population, increased spending on new and existing treatments and increased payouts from the State Claims Agency, have contributed to the Health Service Executive budget overrun.

Mr Desmond that although the department does monitor budgets monthly to detect potential overspend but added it was “not an exact science” and can sometimes have a “lag” or delay in reporting.

Chair of the committee, Fine Gael’s Colm Brophy noted that the overrun across most health bodies tend to be distinctively similar: “In actual fact looking at the figures, the one most remarkable strategic management issue, is the ability to overrun to roughly exactly the same amount, 5%.

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Leinster House in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

“That does seem to indicate an almost consistent disregard of trying to reach target, every single one of those heads -5%.”

Mr Desmond added that they would need to continuously look to see how those resources could be managed more effectively, and would be a key issue going in 2019.

He argued that the nature of health service that normal budget management levers available to other sectors should as a reduction of services are simply not available to them and consequently overruns do occur.

“I put it to you that if we had anyone in here from any other department, they’d quite like to use a line like that,” Mr Brophy added.

“You can actually manage within a budget if you choose to.”

It was noted that officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform did not attend the committee despite being invited to appear.

Speaking after the Committee, Sinn Fein’s deputy spokesperson for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Jonathan O’Brien said the department’s request for a 655 euro million supplementary estimate is proof that of under-investment in health service.

“Today’s committee meeting with officials from the Departments of Health and Public Expenditure & Reform only confirmed what is now clear.

“The Government is engaging in a reckless budgetary policy that endangers our health service and threatens the public finances,” he said.

Press Association

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