Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 9 March 2023
Public Accounts Committee
2021 Financial Statements of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland: Discussion
Mr. Seamus McCarthy:
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland works with Irish householders, businesses, communities and Government agencies with the objective of creating a cleaner and more efficient energy future. In addition, it supports the development of clean energy technologies. The authority's income in 2021 totalled €231.5 million. This was an increase of 54% from 2020. Almost all of the authority's income in 2021 came from Exchequer cash grants. The authority received just over €156 million in 2021 from Vote 29, Environment Climate and Communications, for the authority's main sustainable energy schemes. Members may recall that the 2021 appropriation account for Vote 29 indicates there was a significant underspend in the amount transferred to the authority relative to the amount made available by Dáil Éireann. The funding was not required by the authority due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chain failures and labour availability limitations.
The authority received €69 million in 2021 from Vote 31, Transport, in respect of the electric vehicles programme. This was a new funding stream in 2021 and accounts for a substantial part of the increase in the authority's funding year on year. Expenditure in 2021 amounted to just under €231 million. Almost 91% of this expenditure was incurred in relation to a wide range of grant schemes, details of which are provided in note 7 to the financial statements.
The authority also has responsibilities for registering building energy rating, BER, assessors, the provision of related IT tools and systems for BER assessments, logging BER assessment results in its national register, and overall scheme management and promotion. BER scheme income for 2021 was €3.15 million, while expenditure on scheme activities amounted to €2.8 million. The authority's expenditure an administration amounted to €1.8 million in 2021. The surplus on the authority's operations for 2021 was €702,000. This contrasts with a deficit of €888,000 incurred in 2020.
I certified the 2021 financial statements on 30 June 2022. Subsequently the authority reformatted and incorporated the financial statements along with my audit certificate into its 2021 annual performance report. The annual report was submitted to the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications which arranged for it to be presented to the Oireachtas Library and Research Service on 19 December 2022.
In preparing for this meeting, the liaison officer identified that the authority had made a serious transcription error and that the annual report presented to the Oireachtas incorrectly states that the authority's financial outcome for 2021 was a deficit of €888,000. The 2020 outcome figure stated is also incorrect. Further examination of the annual report identified that there were a number of other transcription errors in the financial statements as presented.
Public bodies have a clear and simple obligation to present financial statements as audited by me to the Houses of the Oireachtas. In this case, prompt presentation by the authority and the Department of the correct financial statements is required, showing the correct audited figures. Given the nature of the authority's main activity as a grant giver, key value for money issues include the extent to which relevant and meaningful output and outcome targets are set for each of the grant programmes. These should included short-term, intermediate targets, as well as medium- and long-term strategic targets, whether the authority has adequate systems in place to measure and report on the outputs and outcomes achieved and whether scarce Exchequer resources are being applied in ways that maximise the long-term benefits to Irish society.