Officials at the Department of Finance have said there is currently no money in the "rainy day fund," the establishment of which was announced in last year's Budget.

Today, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Seán Fleming said the public had the impression that the fund was active.

He asked officials "how much is in the rainy day fund?"

Department of Finance Chief Economist John McCarthy said there is "nothing in it yet, but there is a provision at the moment for €1bn to be provided in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

"It doesn't come in until we balance the books. We balance the books in 2018 so it doesn't come until the year after 2019," he said.

Mr Fleming asked: "So when we talk about this fund there's zero in it?" Mr McCarthy replied: "Yes".

He added that "the operation of the rainy day fund, and the amounts that go in, is currently being reviewed, and in the summer economic statement there will be further detail".

Shortly after becoming Fine Gael leader, Leo Varadkar indicated that he may alter the fund in favour of using the money to invest in capital infrastructure.

The Fiscal Advisory Council, the IMF and the ESRI have warned against scrapping the fund.

The Taoiseach has said there would be a fund of some sort, and its status would be clarified in the summer economic statement.

Firm which received govt funding was investigated for fraud, PAC told

The Public Accounts Committee has been told that a company which received government funding to operate a cross border peace project was investigated for fraud by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt said the funds given to the company, some €181,000, have been lost to the Exchequer.

The allocation was made under the Special EU Programmes Body and PEACE 3 projects in 2014.

The body was set up as part of the Good Friday Agreement to manage the Peace and Reconciliation Programmes and the Interreg programmes.

Mr Watt told Sinn Féin's David Cullinane that "there was an issue about a payment made to a company, and it came to the attention of the body that there were irregularities and allegations of fraud".

He said the matter was investigated by the PSNI who referred it to the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland.

"They concluded that there were no further lines of investigation which would support a positive prosecution".

Mr Watt said the company had since been wound down, was no longer a legal entity, and no longer had any assets.

"So it’s closed at this stage, but it looks like that money is going to be lost to the exchequers" he added.

Under the programme, Ireland and the UK contribute to the fund, and recoup a percentage of the money back from the EU.

However in this case, he said the loss would have to be borne by Ireland and the UK.

He told Fianna Fáil’s Bobby Aylward that he would provide the committee with a more detailed note on the exact nature of the allegations, and about the structure at a later date.

Earlier, Mr McCarthy told the PAC that Government debt now stands at between €42,000 and €44,000 for every person in the State.

That is the second highest debt level in the world after Japan.

The committee was told that in hard cash terms, Ireland owed €201 billion in debt at the end of 2015.

Included in that is €17.5 billion used to bail out stricken banks.

Five things we learned about the economy at the PAC

Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy asked whether any discussion had taken place between the department and EU officials following a decision of EU leaders to break the link between sovereign and bank debt on 29 June 2012.

"At the time, this decision was hailed as a game changer," she said.

She said some people did not accept that this debt should be classed as government debt.

"Is it the case that the department hasn't done anything actively to change that?"

Ann Nolan, a second secretary at the department, said this debt was still classed as government debt and said "there hasn't been further discussions about changing what that debt is".