Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press Release 1996 Appropriation Account

Media Release for 30 September 1997 on the publication of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report on the 1996 Appropriation Accounts

The Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Appropriation Accounts for 1996 is being presented to Dáil ?reann today. Because of the increased amount of information that is required to be included in the Accounts, the publication is produced for the first time in two volumes for convenience sake.

Volume 1 contains the Annual Report which is a composite commentary on the results of the financial audit of the various Government Departments and Offices.

Volume 2 contains the audited Appropriation Accounts which compare the outturn against the moneys granted by Dáil ?reann for the range of services provided by Government Departments and Offices.

The Report is the most important of a range of reports published throughout the year by the Comptroller and Auditor General on matters concerning financial control and value-for-money across the wider public sector. The issues raised in the Report will form the main basis for the Public Accounts Committee’s programme of examinations in the coming months.

The Report contains material which is critical of Departments but also draws attention to matters of a financial nature which have public interest. Attached is a quick reference guide to some of the more noteworthy items in the Report.

For further information, please contact Mr Joe Meade

Secretary General & Director of Audit

Telephone : (01) 6793122

E-Mail : joe_meade@audgen.irlgov.ie

REVENUE

There were shortcomings in the procedures for handling remittances in the Office of the Collector General. (Pages 5-7)

There was ?1,690 million in tax arrears on the books at 31 May 1997 and Revenue estimate that they will ultimately collect ?549 million of this. The main reasons for the discrepancy between what is on the books and what is collectable are

* the estimated nature of many assessments included in the tax debt

* the fact that ?400 million of the arrears is in respect of companies that have ceased trading

Revenue are revising their write-off procedures in order to get the arrears figure down nearer to what they believe is the real collectable debt. (Pages 8 - 10)

The number of Revenue audits fell from 23,294 in 1995 to 19,767 in 1996. (Pages 13-15)

The management information system in the Revenue Commissioners needs to be upgraded if it is to become an effective tool in managing the collection of tax debts. (Page 16)

Revenue have under used a range of enforcement measures available to them to pursue outstanding tax e.g. judgment mortgages and criminal prosecutions. (Pages 17-20)

Controls over stamp duty on land and property transactions need improvement. Fraudulently stamped documents were discovered by Land Registry staff in March 1997. (Pages 20 - 22)

TRANSPORT, ENERGY AND COMMUNICATIONS

The Department had to pay ?84,000 more than the tender price for the consultancy designed to assist it in the evaluation of the applications for the second GSM licence. (Pages 27-28)

JUSTICE

Fees totalling ?4.3 million paid to 116 solicitors and ?1.6 million paid to 63 barristers under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme were not subject to the normal tax clearance procedures. (Pages 29-30)

ENVIRONMENT

Reports from the Local Government Audit Service show up a range of deficiencies in the control of finances by Local Authorities. (Pages 32-35)

The lack of control exercised by the Department over the building of swimming pools in a number of locations gave rise to considerable cost overruns. (Pages 35-39)

EDUCATION

The final cost of capital projects at national schools bears no resemblance to the pre-building estimated cost approved by the Minister. (Pages 44-46)

AGRICULTURE

The State has initiated appeal proceedings in the European Court of Justice against the disallowances imposed by the EU Commission in respect of intervention beef storage (?50.2m) and beef tendering procedures (?18.5m). (Page 48)

There are serious weaknesses in the control exercised by the Department over headage and premia schemes e.g.

* no systematic cross-checking between disease control records and grant data

* grants being paid in the absence of supporting documentation

* duplication of computer and manually generated payments (Pages 49-57)

There was a lack of diligence on the Department’s part in addressing the problem of arrears of land annuities which amounted to ?3.6 million at the end of 1996. (Pages 60-62)

A potential ?400,000 was forfeit due to the Department’s failure to collect rents for bogs and turbary rights in the period 1989-1995. (Pages 62-64)

DEFENCE

On the basis of claims paid to date, there is an unquantifiable but significant contingent liability on the State arising from claims by Defence Forces personnel in respect of hearing impairment allegedly suffered while on military service. (Page 65)

SOCIAL WELFARE

?18.9 million in overpayments were recorded by the Department in 1996 of which ?13.6 million was attributable to fraud or suspected fraud. (Pages 66-68)

Additional control measures have been taken by the Department as a response to the finding of the Labour Force Survey that the unemployment figures recorded on the Live Register may have been overstated. (Pages 69-70)

Control initiatives in areas other than unemployment have been successful in detecting overpayments. (Pages 70 - 71)

The number of prosecutions taken by the Department against perpetrators of social welfare fraud has fallen dramatically in recent years. (Page 72)

Approximately 52% of recorded overpayments are ultimately written off by the Department. (Page 73)

IRREGULARITIES

There were a number of reported irregularities

* encashment of pension orders after death (Page 2)

* cash discrepancies in Ordnance Survey Office (Page 26)

* fraudulent payments at a Social Welfare branch office. (Pages 73-74)

The contents of this page were last updated on 26/09/03