Thursday, 7 February 2019
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Road Improvement Schemes
232. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if all roads funding for Cavan County Council has been appropriately spent over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6063/19]
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads (RLR) is the statutory responsibility of each County Council, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from the Council's own resources supplemented by State road grants. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is a matter for the Council.
Where my Department does provide grant funding, the Department's Memorandum on Grants for Regional and Local Roads applies. The most recent revision of the Memorandum was issued in November 2018 (RW 14/2018) and came into effect on 1st December 2018.
The Memorandum on Grants provides information on, and defines the conditions governing the allocation and payment of monies to Local Authorities in respect of all grant programmes for Regional and Local Roads. It also includes conditions on the chargeability against State grants of expenditure incurred and general guidance on the carrying out of grant aided works. In this context local authorities are required as part of the grant claim submission process to verify that a claim is in accordance with the requirements for chargeability of expenditure and that all amounts have been checked in full and are in order for payment. The Department emphasises to local authorities that it considers that this verification is a key part of the financial control system and expects this role to be executed with due diligence and care.
The onus is, therefore, on each local authority to ensure that it complies fully with the requirements associated with regional and local grants. As regards oversight arrangements in relation to the grants, staffing levels within the Department were impacted by cutbacks during the recession but have been strengthened over the last year and there is now a team of 3 engineers (each dealing with specific Local Authorities) overseeing the regional and local road investment programme. In addition my Department monitors expenditure through desk checks on expenditure claimed and also on-site spot checks in local authority offices.
More generally, as the deputy is aware, the Oireachtas has given the responsibility of oversight of local authority expenditure to the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC), and it would be wholly inappropriate for a Minister to impinge on the statutory independence of NOAC in relation to the appropriateness of expenditure by a local authority.
As regards national roads, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. My Department allocates the national capital roads programme budget to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to manage and deliver (in accordance with the Roads Acts 1993-2015) the construction and maintenance of all national roads, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned. I have, therefore, referred the question to TII for a direct reply to you in relation to national roads. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.