LESS than half of inspected childcare providers were fully compliant with health and safety rules according to figures in a report by the State spending watchdog.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has examined the delivery of early learning and childcare programmes as part of its report on the accounts of the public services for 2018.
State spending in the sector came to €410m in 2018 including the cost of universal and targeted childcare subsidies.
The issue of child welfare in creches has been highlighted in recent months by an RTÉ expose of disturbing practice in the Hyde & Seek chain in Dublin.
The C&AG report gives an overview of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency's inspections regime.
It outlines how Tusla's Early Years Inspectorate carried out 2,513 inspections in 2018 and two service providers were de-registered for failing to meet requirements that year.
A further three childcare providers have been de-registered this year.
Tusla does not have the power to instruct a registered service provider to immediately cease operations.
The C&AG report says that the most recent comprehensive data on inspection activity and outcomes relates to 2017 when 2,033 inspections were carried out, 1,563 of these in existing services.
Just 32pc were found to be fully compliant in all criteria inspected.
The C&AG report notes that the highest level of non-compliance was in relation to a regulation on "safeguarding health, safety and welfare" with just 45pc - less than half - of service providers found to be fully compliant in that area.
The Tusla inspectorate followed up with a random sample of 500 non-compliant findings and found that in 93pc of cases the issues raised during the inspections had subsequently been fully addressed.
The C&AG report found that three separate organisations - Tusla, Pobal and the Department of Education have responsibility for compliance and inspection of different aspects of early learning and childcare provision.
It recommended that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs should agree formal protocols for data sharing with other inspection bodies.
The Department has accepted the recommendation.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Seán Fleming said that the C&AG's report also identifies issues with the Department's oversight of Pobal and "makes a number of recommendations which the committee will examine in detail.”