Sunday 17 December 2017

Paper trail shows how €3.6bn alert was ignored

Officials were warned about error a year ago

Emmet Oliver and Michael Brennan

Mid-ranking officials in the Department of Finance ignored repeated warnings they were making a €3.6bn accounting error which made our national debt appear to be worse than it was.

The Irish Independent can reveal that a paper trail between the agency that manages the national debt and the department will show that civil servants were alerted to the danger on several occasions.

However, no action was taken to rectify the mistake.

The department is now carrying out an investigation into its procedures to make sure it never happens again. Heads are unlikely to roll. The bizarre discovery is certain, however, to raise questions about the likelihood of other errors lying undiscovered within the system.

The discovery of the blunder -- the largest accounting mistake ever made by the State -- means that Irish government debt is €3.6bn lower than thought, representing a serious embarrassment for the Government.

But the newly 'discovered' €3.6bn will not ease the pain in next month's Budget -- despite being roughly equivalent to the amount Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected to look for in cutbacks and taxation.

The Irish Independent understands the Department of Finance was warned on several occasions since late last year

Irish Independent

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