Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Finance
Question 146: To ask the Minister for Finance if he has instructed each Government Department to include an ex-ante evaluation its comprehensive spending review acknowledging that he has already made reference to a root and branch evaluation but noting this question asks specifically if an ex-ante evaluation of departmental spending for 2012 has been requested by him. [17409/11]
Question 147: To ask the Minister for Finance if, following completion of the comprehensive spending review and implementation of Budget 2012, he plans to instruct Government Departments to provide ongoing evaluations of annual spending and if so, the frequency of same. [17410/11]
Question 148: To ask the Minister for Finance if, following completion of the comprehensive spending review and implementation of Budget 2012, he intends to instruct Government Departments to provide ex-post evaluations of annual spending. [17411/11]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 146 to 148, inclusive, together.
The Comprehensive Review of Expenditure (CRE) process was formally initiated by my colleague Mr. Brendan Howlin, T.D. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, in early May. The objectives of the review are to provide the Government with a full set of decision options to meet the overall fiscal consolidation objectives, both as regards spending and numbers reduction targets, to re-align spending with the Programme for Government priorities and to consider new ways of achieving Government objectives in the context of public sector reform. Ministers and Departments have the responsibility to evaluate every budgetary programme for which they are responsible, within both Departments and Agencies. The review is expected to be completed before the end of September, at which point the results of the process will be brought to Government for assessment as part of the Budget and Estimates process.
On the broader point of expenditure evaluation, the CRE should be seen as part of a number of reforms designed to bring greater rigour to the allocation of scarce public resources and complement existing value for money arrangements. In the past, our systems of resource allocation have been too focused on raw financial inputs, without enough regard to what is actually being produced. It is necessary now to consider in greater the detail the actual outputs delivered from public expenditure and the impacts that this spending has. As a first step in this process a pilot project has been undertaken as part of the 2011 Estimates which brings a greater focus on the link between the objectives, financial inputs, physical outputs and ultimate impacts of public spending programmes. It is intended that this performance budgeting process be further rolled out as part of the 2012 Estimates process.
These reforms complement the existing value for money architecture which includes ongoing evaluations of departmental expenditure. The Value for Money and Policy Review initiative was launched in 2006, building on the Expenditure Review Initiative introduced in 1997. The initiative focuses on evaluations of significant areas of expenditure and major policy issues. To date, close to 200 such reviews have been carried out. Under existing arrangements, there is a particular focus the four major areas of expenditure: namely the Health, Education, Social Protection and Justice sectors. These four sectors conduct one review per year, while all other line Departments plus the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Office of Public Works are required to carry out 2 reviews each in a three year period.
Minister Howlin and his new Department will be reviewing the effectiveness of these arrangements, to ensure that a proper culture of rigorous evaluation and value-for-money is delivered across the public service. This evaluation culture should encompass all stages of programme design and delivery, from ex-ante through to ex-post ; and should apply across all types of expenditure programmes, covering current as well as capital.