Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Public Accounts Committee

2019 Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Vote 31 - Transport, Tourism and Sport

9:30 am

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

The appropriation account for Vote 31 - Transport, Tourism and Sport records gross expenditure of €2.3 billion in 2019. This was distributed across five expenditure programmes of widely varying value.

The bulk of the expenditure in 2019 was under programme B, for land transport. Expenditure on that programme amounted to €1.9 billion and accounted for 83% of gross voted expenditure. This comprised mainly investment in roads and road safety and regulation and current and capital spending on public transport. I note that spending allocated to the land transport programme has increased substantially since 2019. As recorded in the Revised Estimates Volume, the allocation for the programme for 2021 totals €3.3 billion. It may accordingly be time for the Department, in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to consider splitting the programme. This would allow the Department to provide more useful detail about the various spending lines, in both the Estimates and future appropriation accounts.

The largest of the other expenditure programmes for Vote 31 in 2019 related to programme E, tourism services, and programme D, sport and recreation services. Expenditure on these programmes in 2019 amounted to €158 million and €106 million, respectively. Both these programmes were allocated to the new Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media following the formation of the Government in mid-2020.

Programme C relates to maritime transport and safety. Expenditure on this programme amounted to €96 million in 2019. This mainly comprised expenditure on the Irish Coast Guard service, which operationally is part of the Department. It includes recurrent expenditure on the long-term contract with a private sector supplier for provision of a helicopter search and rescue service. Expenditure under the contract in 2019 is not itemised in the appropriation account, but members may wish to note that the estimated residual financial commitment under the contract is shown in note 2.8. This amounted to €155 million at end 2019.

Programme A relates to civil aviation services. Expenditure under the programme totalled €34.8 million in 2019, including financial support for regional airports amounting to €21.8 million.

Receipts into Vote 31 as appropriations-in-aid are relatively small.

The surplus on the Vote for 2019 was €69.8 million. With agreement from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, €48.6 million in unspent capital allocations was carried over for spending in 2020. The remainder of the surplus, €21.2 million, was liable for surrender to the Exchequer at the year end.

I issued a clear audit opinion on the appropriation account.

The Department has an oversight role in respect of a substantial number of public bodies that operate under its aegis. These include bodies substantially funded from Vote 31 such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the National Transport Authority and the Medical Bureau of Road Safety; bodies that are funded mainly through charges and levies such as the Road Safety Authority, the Commission for Aviation Regulation and the Commission for Railway Regulation; and transport-related commercial State bodies such as the CIÉ Group, Dublin Airport Authority, the Irish Aviation Authority and a number of port companies.

A list of bodies under the aegis of the Department can be seen in the appendix to the appropriation account.

Members may wish to note that, in the statement on internal financial control, the Accounting Officer discloses that shortcomings were identified in the process for procurement of vehicles for the Irish Coast Guard motor fleet. Having reviewed the circumstances of the procurement as part of the audit of the 2019 appropriation account, I decided to examine the matter further from a value for money perspective. We are in the process of finalising a special report about this procurement, which will be presented in due course.