Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has expressed concern at a number of areas outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) Annual Report where the taxpayer is failing to achieve value for money.
These include the National Lottery, the National Broadband Plan, bogus self-employment and social housing.
Speaking this afternoon following the launch of the report, Chairman Stanley said:
“The report has drawn attention to the National Lottery and a significant amount of money being used on marketing that should in fact have gone back to communities.
“Between 2015 and 2021, almost €122m was spent on the promotion of the National Lottery that was originally ringfenced for prize money. These findings challenge the integrity of the National Lottery and bring into question the claim that 90% of lottery sales are returned to communities.
“The National Broadband Plan (NBP) has also been identified by the C&AG as an area of significant concern. The report reveals for the first time that the Department has utilised sanctions within the contract that financially penalise National Broadband Ireland for their failure to hit targets.
“The report confirms that the project is 12 months behind schedule and further sanctions are due to apply. As Chair of the PAC, I am very concerned by the progress of the NBP, but I am also underwhelmed by the financial sanctions imposed so far. Considering the contract is worth almost €2.7b to the private investor, a sanction of €157,500 is a drop in the ocean.
“Bogus self-employment is an area that the PAC has so far focused a considerable amount of resources on and the report supports our view that not enough is being done by the state to crack down on the practice.
“There is a reluctance on behalf of the government to protect workers and to collect tax from companies avoiding their PRSI contributions. The report highlights the failure of Revenue to quantify the potential loss of tax to the state and for not developing a programme of random site visits to workplaces.
“Finally, it was very disheartening to see that the Department of Housing’s Acquisition Fund for vacant housing has failed miserably and that 50% of its overall funds was not utilised.
“This fund was established in 2017 for the Housing Agency to buy vacant houses and apartments that would be utilised for social housing by approved housing bodies. After four years, the fund reached only 54% of its modest target and it is an indictment on this government that €38m of this fund was not even utilised.
“These are just four areas of concern that I have highlighted from the 23 chapters identified by the C&AG.
“It is difficult to put into context the level of expenditure that is being lost by the state each year and the level of potential revenue that is being forgone.
“It will be the work of the PAC over the course of the next 12 months to scrutinise these areas of concern and to deliver outcomes that will provide the taxpayer with value for money.”