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Bid for greater scrutiny of councils' spending blocked

THE Government yesterday rejected a bill which would give the State spending watchdog the power to investigate the €4.4bn spent every year by councils.

Currently, the Comptroller and Auditor General is unable to check the books of the country's city and county councils -- who have been involved in numerous spending scandals.

But Junior Minister for Housing and Planning Jan O'Sullivan said the Government would be rejecting the private members bill because it would duplicate the work already being done by the local government audit service.

But she said it was disturbing to hear that councillors were unable to question council executives about spending decisions.

Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, who drew up the bill, said its rejection was a missed opportunity.

"I was a member of two local authorities covering a period of 25 years. During that time I saw little or no scrutiny of the way taxpayers' money was spent," he said.

Independent Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle -- who was previously a councillor - described how €2.3m had been paid to two consultants over a seven-year period for their work for Donegal County Council.

"This work was not tendered, was not shown anywhere in the accounts, was not in the budget."

Irish Independent