Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Public Accounts Committee

2020 Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Appropriation Accounts
Residential Tenancies Board - Financial Statements 2020

9:30 am

Mr. Seamus McCarthy:

The Residential Tenancies Board, formerly the Private Residential Tenancies Board, was established in 2004 to regulate the private rental housing sector. It has evolved since then to include the private rental, approved housing bodies and student-specific accommodation sectors.

The board’s income in 2020 amounted to €18.3 million, down from €19 million in 2019. The majority of the income comes from fees for the registration of new tenancies, which amounted to just under €11.7 million, or over 60% of income in 2020. The fees are based on flat rates per registration, and legislation provides for the board to determine the amount charged, subject to the consent of the Minister.

Exchequer funding is provided to the board to cover the shortfall between income and expenditure. Funding totalling just under €6.7 million was provided to the board in respect of 2020. This was sourced from the Vote for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The board’s expenditure in 2020 amounted to €18 million.

I certified the 2020 financial statements on 15 June 2021 and issued a clear audit opinion.

One of the key functions of the board is the maintenance of a publicly searchable database of registered tenancies, which the board also relies on to underpin analysis of trends in the private rental market. The statement on internal control presented with the financial statements discloses that difficulties had emerged with a project being undertaken by the board to develop a new management system for tenancy registrations and disputes. Significant delays in project delivery had occurred, and there was an increase in the expected cost. The total cost of the project was then expected to be €5.2 million, approximately €1.9 million or 58% higher than originally budgeted. The board undertook a review of the project and subsequently enhanced its project oversight.

When I was signing off on the audit in June 2021, the statement on internal control stated that the board expected to bring the new case management system into use during the summer of 2021. However, I note that the sentence about the expected project completion date does not appear in the English language version that was presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas. It does appear in the Irish language version. As a matter of principle, financial statements and accompanying documents should always be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas in the form settled at the date of certification, except for tidying up of any typos and so on. Therefore, the sentence should not have been removed. We have this week received assurances from the board that no other material post-certification changes were made to the financial statements. The representatives of the board will be in a position to provide an update on the progress made since last summer regarding the new case management system, including an update on final project cost.