Tuesday, 17 February 2004
Department of Finance
Question 131: To ask the Minister for Finance if he plans to introduce new procedures for the presentation of proposals for spending and taxation in Dáil Éireann which would be more meaningful and more timely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4693/04]
The Estimates outline the Government's main spending proposals and they are presented by the Minister for Finance to Dáil Éireann in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Dáil. The Minister for Finance normally presents the pre-budget or Abridged Estimates Volume, AEV, to Dáil Éireann approximately two weeks before budget day. The post-budget or Revised Estimates Volume, REV, are normally presented to the Dáil within eight weeks of the start of the fiscal year to which they relate. The Estimates by departmental Vote are then subject to individual scrutiny and approval by the relevant Oireachtas committee.
As regards taxation, the financial statement on budget day outlines the main taxation measures proposed. The details of these proposed measures are contained in the accompanying budget book, which is distributed to Members on budget day. The budget and Finance Bill debates provide the House with the opportunity to give its views on these measures. I do not have any plans to amend the above arrangements. I would, however, inform the Deputy of some reforms introduced and ongoing consideration under way which are of relevance to his question.
In my Budget Statement of 3 December 2003, I announced a major change in the financial treatment of capital spending through the introduction of rolling five year multi-annual capital envelopes. In implementing the new envelope system, I intend to allow Departments to carry over to the following year, subject to Dáil approval, any unspent Exchequer capital allocations, up to a maximum of 10% of each year's voted capital allocation.
The capital envelopes, including the carryover arrangement, as well as leading to improvements in the management of capital programmes, will mean changes in the presentation of voted capital moneys to the Dáil. The Finance Bill 2004 makes provision for the new carryover arrangement. Under the new arrangements, as envisaged in the Finance Bill, the Dáil will be apprised of the amounts to be carried over in the AEV and it will be asked to approve the amounts on three separate occasions: the Appropriation Act of the carryover year; a ministerial order which must be approved by the Dáil in the following year; and in the REV of the following year.
Changes by way of tidying up or rationalisation of subheads and Votes have been made in the REV in recent years in consultation, as appropriate, with the Committee of Public Accounts. I intend to continue this process in the 2004 REV which will contain a significant rationalisation of the presentation of the subheads in the Agriculture and Food Vote.
The 2003 public capital programme included new project level information. My Department will build on this presentational improvement and include material relating to the capital envelopes in the 2004 public capital programme which will be published, along with the REV, at the end of the month.
Work is ongoing on a pilot project under the aegis of my Department, involving the Departments of Agriculture and Food, Social and Family Affairs and Transport as pilot departments. The purpose of the pilot project is to examine ways of improving the links between departmental strategy statements, business planning and resource allocation and performance measurement. The results of this pilot project will be evaluated and consideration will be given as to whether this approach should be mainstreamed across Departments. If it is considered that the pilot project should be further developed and mainstreamed, I will bring proposals to Government and to the Committee of Public Accounts. I expect that the pilot project working group will furnish its draft report by the end of May.