Tuesday, 17 November 2020
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Criminal Assets Bureau
134. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if further consideration has been given to the proposal to ring-fence seized moneys and redistribute to drug prevention programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36654/20]
I refer to a similar Parliamentary Question from Deputy Richmond which I answered on the 21st October of this year [32060/20]. The position remains as I set out in that response.
The Criminal Assets Bureau is a multi-agency statutory body established under the Criminal Assets Bureau Act 1996. The Criminal Assets Bureau’s remit is to target a person's assets, wherever situated, which derive, or are suspected to derive, directly or indirectly, from criminal conduct.
In accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996-2016, all funds collected by the Criminal Assets Bureau are forwarded to the Central Exchequer Fund. It is this Central Fund from which the Government draws for expenditure on all necessary public services and investment, including the provision of drug prevention programmes. The Constitution requires, and Government accounting principles provide, that public moneys be spent only as voted or approved by Dáil Éireann, unless otherwise provided by statute.
While there have been calls from time to time for moneys confiscated by the Criminal Assets Bureau to be ring fenced, a policy of ring-fencing moneys obtained by the Exchequer, and the reallocation of same for a specific purpose, runs contrary to the normal Estimates process. While allowing for a small number of very specific targeted exceptions, it is a general principle of public financial management that earmarking revenues for a specific expenditure programme would tend to constrain the Government in the implementation of its overall expenditure policy.
I understand that there would also be practical difficulties owing to the variable and uncertain nature of the value of the assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau in any given year. In addition, the potential delays caused by legal challenges to court disposal orders would also be problematic in terms of continuity of provision of funding to specific programmes or projects, whether drug related or otherwise. Therefore, because of the variable value and nature of assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau in any given year, such a revenue source would not be reliable for facilitating the proper planning of drug prevention programmes and the delivery of such services. Accordingly, there are no proposals to change the existing arrangements.