Transparency in Budget 2021

Mon, Oct 19, 2020

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Neasa on the need for transparency of oversight in the context of Budget 2021.


Some of the items I will be focusing on as part of my work in the Committee on Budgetary Oversight are performance metrics, results and transparency. Is it clear what each Department is trying to accomplish with the taxpayers' money and is the Department achieving those goals? In the ten days before the budget, both the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure gave a little information to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight on the measures that would be contained in budget 2021, and the spending overall seems to have been underestimated by a few billion euro.

The level of oversight being afforded to each Member of this House on decision-making, metrics and results in the budget is somewhat lacking. I will look at three areas in the housing budget as an example. Between the housing assistance payment, HAP, the rental accommodation scheme, RAS, and the long-term leasing of houses, we are now spending €941 million, which is 30% of the housing budget, with regard to private landlords. That is current, not capital, expenditure that the taxpayer will need to fund every year. While there may always be a need for the State to rent housing privately, the rationale for such a large percentage of the budget going on rent as opposed to a greater investment in publicly delivered social housing is not presented.

Similarly, we have spent €310 million on the help to buy schemes since July 2016. Is that actually helping or are we simply pushing up property prices and putting this money into the pockets of property developers?

I would like more clarity on where the €218 million allocated to the delivery of homeless services is actually going. That money is very welcome and very much needed in my constituency but how many organisations are in receipt of this funding and what services are covered? How many of those organisations are for profit, which is a worrying development we are now beginning to see?

Housing is just one example. Presenting a budget just with high-level numbers that obscure the detail and year-on-year spending trends is not good enough in terms of a thorough evaluation of the budget’s effectiveness.