Written answers

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Programme for Government Implementation

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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100. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the programme for partnership Government commitment on reforming budgetary matters. [50339/19]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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In recent years, a range of reforms have been implemented with a view to enhancing Ireland’s budgetary framework. These reforms aim to increase transparency around the budgetary process and facilitate stronger dialogue on key elements of the Budget and on what is being achieved with public funds.

Central to this is a ‘whole-of-year’ budgetary framework. Rather than focusing budget discussions only around Budget Day, this refers to an ongoing consideration of budgetary priorities and the publication of a range of documents to enhance engagement throughout the year. Some of these documents include:

- Stability Programme Update – the Stability Programme Update (SPU), published in April each year, is Ireland’s national medium-term fiscal plan and includes an update of the economic and fiscal outlook.

- Summer Economic Statement – the Summer Economic Statement builds on the SPU and sets out the fiscal parameters and budgetary strategy for the upcoming Budget.

- Mid-Year Expenditure Report – the Mid-Year Expenditure Report, published in July each year, sets out the Departmental expenditure baseline for the medium-term, based on the strategy outlined in the SES.

- Tax Strategy Group Papers – Each year, papers exploring tax policy options are prepared by the Tax Strategy Group. In line with the Government’s commitment to budgetary reform, the Tax Strategy Group papers are now published in advance of the Budget to facilitate informed discussion.

Further to this, in recent year there has been a greater emphasis placed on enhancing the evaluation capacity of Government departments. In light of this, a number of additional reports and processes now support the budgetary framework including:

- Public Service Performance Report - In April/early May each year, the Public Service Performance Report is published. This report presents performance information in a timely fashion, and aims to facilitate informed discussion around what is being delivered with public funds. A key objective of the Performance Budgeting Initiative is to shift focus away from the quantum of spend and towards what is being achieved through that spending. The intention of the Performance Report is to help enhance the focus on performance and delivery by presenting relevant performance indicators in a dedicated, focused document.

- Equality budgeting – The Revised Estimates Volume (REV) 2018 saw the roll-out of a pilot programme of equality budgeting. For the pilot exercise, a number of diverse policy areas were selected with associated objectives and indicators. The learnings from the pilot are being used to inform the expansion of the equality budgeting initiative to further develop the gender budgeting elements, and to broaden its scope to other dimensions of equality including poverty, socioeconomic inequality and disability. An Equality Budgeting Expert Advisory Group has also been established. This group is comprised of a broad range of relevant stakeholders and policy experts to provide advice on the most effective way to advance Equality Budgeting policy and progress the initiative. Most recently, an OECD "Policy Scan" Report on Equality Budgeting has been completed, and was published on Budget Day in October last, and it sets out a number of ambitious objectives about advancing this aspect of the budgetary reform agenda.

- Capital Tracker - The tracker lists a range of projects and programmes to be delivered by Departments to 2027. Published in an Excel format, for each project, the tracker indicates the stage it is at in the project life-cycle, e.g. Stage 1 pre-appraisal, Stage 5 Implementation.

- Spending Review - The process aims to improve how public expenditure is allocated across all areas of Government. Announced in Budget 2017, it aims to place evidence at the heart of policy making, by systematically examining existing spending programmes with a view to assessing their efficiency and effectiveness, and to support the re-allocation of funding to meet expenditure priorities.

Finally, building upon the commitment to budget transparency, and to further enhance the accessibility and availability of budget information tailored towards the general public, at budget time this year, a dedicated citizen’s guide to the budget was published in clear non-technical language. The guide is an objective, self-contained document, in a concise and accessible format. The guide seeks to foster greater understanding of the Budget process and the public finances more generally.

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