Mon, Oct 11, 2021
Read in 3 minutes
Neasa speaking in her role as Chair of the Budgetary Oversight Committee on providing financial oversight in advance of Budget 2022.
Interviewer: Hello Chair, you are very welcome to studio and thank you for joining us. You became Chair of the Budgetary Oversight Committee at the height of the pandemic in September 2020, so what has it been like to preside over the Committee at this time.
Neasa Hourigan TD: It has been challenging. As you said the Chair was announced in September and the Budget was in October, so that was not your average budgetary oversight experience. We kind of hustled to do some kind of oversight before the Budget and certainly oversight after the Budget. Obviously spending during the Covid period has been really extraordinary, and that overall has been a good thing. If you look at what this country has done, it has aimed to support businesses, to support people, support families, through an unprecedented crisis.
Interviewer: So, can you tell us about the work of the Committee, the role of the Committee in providing budgetary oversight, and how you provide that function?
Neasa Hourigan TD: So, the Budgetary Oversight Committee is a relatively new committee, set up after a 2016 report from the OECD which said we really need one. Ireland has a very annualised budget strategy where every year is almost like a blank slate and you start from scratch. That does not always make for good budget planning. Certainly, that medium-term outlook, the three to five years if you are looking at things like service provision and capacity within particular sectors you need medium term planning. And so that is the work of the Budgetary Oversight Committee.
Interviewer: Ok so let’s focus in on the work of the Committee, in recent times you have had both the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath before the Committee, so what did you discuss in the lead up to the Budget and how important is it that they appear before the Committee?
Neasa Hourigan TD: So, picking up on a number of points that you have made there about the work of the Committee, you have also had the Central Bank before the Committee, and a number of advisory bodies. So how important are their contributions to the function of Budgetary oversight?
Neasa Hourigan TD: I think it is really important to talk to the experts. I am a great believer in experts, and if you talk to people from the Central Bank, from IFAC, from the ESRI, you get a chance to again, flesh out some of the issues that are coming up and some of those themes that are filtering through and I think it is also useful in terms of placing decision on a landscape and within a context so that the Committee can get a sense of what we should be doing going forward. For example we recently had an opening statement from IFAC which characterised the proposed spending of the Government spending as ‘the limit of what is prudent’, and I thought that that was very well worded and very interesting and I think they contextualised that by talking about things like interest rates, and our debt ratio, and how growth might develop in the next 18 months, and all of that is really useful to us in terms of holding both Ministers to account for that kind of 3-5 year outlook.
Interviewer: Thank you very much for joining us.
Neasa Hourigan TD: Thank you.