Govt introduces 'performance based accounting'

Friday 24 February 2012 12.36
Government aims to identify efficiencies and inefficiencies in departments
Government aims to identify efficiencies and inefficiencies in departments

The Government has introduced changes to its own departmental spending accounts, introducing "performance based accounting" measures that set out what the spending is intended to achieve.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said that all Government departments will be judged on their performance from now on, and that the new format book of estimates will provide one of the tools for measuring performance.

The new format estimates will break spending down between financial and human inputs.

The amount of money going into each spending area will be split between administration costs (both pay and non pay), and the actual costs of programme delivery.

The accounting method aims to identify more clearly areas of efficiency and inefficiency. It also breaks out outputs and public service activities.

Every department should be able to clearly list the key outputs that the public is "buying" from the public service with its taxes.

The accounting method will ensure that it is up to each department to explain, in a strategy statement, the intended impact of its spending plans.

The 2012 revised estimates volume provides key outputs achieved last year by departments, alongside targets for this year.

Last year the director of public prosecutions issued directions in relation to 14,014 suspects, and dealt with 3,862 new court proceedings, and aims to at least match that volume this year.

However the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Health votes have not moved to performance based budgeting this year, and the Department of Education and Skills was only able to provide indicative performance information.

The Government aims to have these three departments providing performance data from next year.

But there is an exception; the secret service vote remains a secret, with no details of what its €1m budget is supposed to be for. The secret service vote has increased by 76% compared with last year's outturn. Total net spending (capital and current) is set to fall by 3.3%.

Cost of running Government departments

Elsewhere, the cost of running Government departments and the Civil Service is set to increase in 2012 according to estimates provided by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure has said that the Government spent significantly less on consultancy services last year than had been estimated at the beginning of 2011.

Consultancy expenditure for Government departments and State agencies was initially estimated to run to €40.1m, but only €19.1m was actually spent.

She said expenditure on consultancy this year is estimated to run to €36.8m, but this did not necessarily mean that allocation would be spent, and noted that it was a reduction on the previous year's estimate.

The Department of Public Expenditure's spokeswoman has said that the original estimate for spending on the Civil Service had been over €2bn, but that only €1.9m was spent.