Written answers

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Departmental Expenditure

12:00 pm

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Question 200: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding the further transfer of a €3.5 million budget from his Department to the Health Service Executive for funding of the accommodation element of separated children seeking asylum; the basis on which that figure was drawn; if it was decided by his Department or the HSE; the role of actuaries or accountants in selecting that figure; and the breakdown of projected costings. [44195/09]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The transfer of the sum referred to in the question is essentially an issue of accounting rather than funding. It concerns the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA), a functional unit of my Department's Immigration Division responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers through the policy of direct provision. Underlying the explanation below is the fact that responsibility for the provision of accommodation for separated children seeking asylum (SCSAs) falls to the Health Services Executive (HSE) under section 8(5)(a) of the Refugee Act 1996 (as amended).

In the period between 2002 and 2008 inclusive, an accounting arrangement had existed whereby RIA refunded the HSE, from the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the cost of accommodating SCSAs. Such children were accommodated in centres run by the HSE and reimbursement of these costs was made by RIA on foot of vouched documents submitted on a regular basis over the course of the year by the HSE.

It should be explained that these financial arrangements had been problematical because RIA (whose finances are covered in Subhead D4 of the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Justice and Equality) had financial but not operational responsibility for the accommodation of SCSAs. It was, from an accounting perspective, an undesirable practice for an organisation that contracts and uses resources to be different from the one that pays for them. RIA had no operational control over the centres engaged by the HSE for the accommodation of SCSAs and had no involvement in the negotiation of the relevant contracts.

The process was therefore changed by agreement between RIA, the Department of Health and the Department of Finance when the sum of €3.5 million was transferred from the Justice Vote to the relevant Vote covering the HSE, effective in 2009. The sum was calculated simply by reference to what had been reimbursed by RIA to the HSE over the preceding couple of years: for example, the amounts recouped by RIA totalled €3.17 million in 2007 and €3.47 million in 2008. After 2009, the estimates process - through which monies are allocated to Votes - will take place in the normal way having regard to the fact that refunds of the cost of accommodating SCSAs will no longer take place between the Justice and HSE Votes.


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