Fuel laundering has become less of a problem in Ireland in recent years, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

In its annual report for 2015, the C&AG said 15 filling stations were closed and ten prosecutions were initiated as a result of strengthened controls by Revenue.

This is down from 57 closures in 2012.

There were 142 clean-up cases as a result of diesel laundering, costing local authorities €500,000.

The majority of the cases were in Louth and Monaghan.

According to Revenue, the fuel laundering problem has been effectively eliminated. 

However, the C&AG has recommended that Revenue produce estimates of the loss to the Exchequer as result of fuel laundering, so that that it can measure the impact of its initiatives, and track it over time.

In the UK, HM Revenue and Customs produces a report each year which provides information on the size of the tax gap in the UK.

The C&AG has also recommended that a competitive sales process or auction should be used for disposing valuable State assets.

it was difficult to say whether the sale of the Government jet had achieved the best price possible because there had not been a tendering process in place.

The Gulfstream IV was sold in January 2015 for €418,000 and the spare parts for €53,000.

The Department of Defence said it was "fully satisfied" with the price achieved in the sale of the aircraft and spare parts.

But the Air Corps had estimated the value of the spare parts at €405,000 in October 2014.

The C&AG said a cost benefit analysis had been carried out in an informal manner.

The Department of Defence had argued that a public auction would not have been possible because the aircraft had been in a "stripped down state" and prospective buyers would not have been able to view it.

But the C&AG said the rationale for this decision should have been documented at the time.

The report found that the department had not formally appraised the cost of returning the jet to a serviceable condition against the benefits of its continued use.

Cost of producing Public Service Cards could reach €60m

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Protection says the cost of developing and issuing Public Service Cards could reach €60m by the end of next year. 

The card, which is designed to help people access a range of Government services including social welfare payments and pensions, was introduced in 2012.

At the time, the reported cost was estimated at €26.4m.

It was originally intended that three million public service cards would be produced by the end of 2013. To date, more than two million cards have been produced.

The C&AG report says that a number of factors - including the need to update IT infrastructure - have led to delays in the rollout of the card.

The Department now expects that the project will be completed by the end of 2017 under revised arrangements with the service provider. 

It said the cost of the contract with the service provider increased by over €3m due to delays, contract changes, and additional security features for the card.

To date, €2.2m has been spent on card activation.

In a statement this evening, the Department of Social Protection disputed that the costs in running the Public Service Card had increased from €24.9m to nearly €60m.

The Department said the cost of the Managed Services Contract element of the project rose from €24.9m in 2012 to €27.6m by the end of 2017. However, when other costs were factored in, the total costs rose from €55.3m in 2012 to €59.7m by the end of 2017.

"It wasn't possible to calculate the number of staff that would be required to implement the project until the detailed design work was completed and tested.

"That was done in 2011 and the Department then sought sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for its staffing requirement to implement the project. It received sanction for staffing in February 2012," according to the Department of Social Protectionstatement.

The C&AG said that there had been no "business case or project plan" in place when the scheme was implemented. The Department said this was because the scheme had been "new" and "innovative" and had not been used in any other Government department.

But Social Protection said the project had been "coherently planned".

Specific costings for the scheme were only developed in 2009 after the procurement process had begun.

The C&AG said this did not seem to include a comprehensive risk evaluation or assessment of IT structures.

It said the Department had not set a target in relation to the amount of savings the introduction of the scheme would achieve. 

The Department of Social Protection now estimates that savings in payments of €2.5m have been achieved since the card was introduced.

C&AG urges Revenue to calculate 'audit gap'

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