To date €210m has been provided by religious congregations towards the cost of compensating victims of institutional abuse, the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee has been told.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has said that the final overall cost of investigating and responding to victims of institutional abuse is estimated to be €1.5bn, with the vast majority of costs relating to the Redress Scheme.

The committee heard evidence on a special report by Seamus McCarthy on the cost of the Abuse Inquiry and Redress schemes, which he published last December.

A senior official from the Department of Education said that when the contributions from the religious congregations provided for in the 2002 Indemnity Agreement are combined with the subsequent voluntary offers, the maximum total contribution is expected to be €321m, of which €210m has been received.

Seán Ó Foghlú said that since January 2016 a further €12.4m in cash contributions have been received under voluntary offers from religious congregations, which followed publication of the Ryan Report in 2009. 

Mr Ó Foghlú said the Government's position was that the congregations could bring their contribution to 50% of the estimated costs.

However, he acknowledged the overall figure of €321m was €429m short of a 50% share, adding that the congregations had "never accepted" the 50% principle.

In addition, he said eight further property transfers have now been fully completed, four under the 2002 Indemnity Agreement and four under the 2009 voluntary offers.

He said a total of €112.9m, or 88% of the amount provided for in the 2002 agreement, has been received.

Chair of the committee Fianna Fáil's Seán Fleming expressed concern that the minutes of meetings between some of the congregations and the department were not readily available to the committee.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly sharply criticised the department's original estimates that the cost of compensating victims would be €250m.

CEO of Caranua Mary Higgins has said she accepts criticisms of the internal financial control of the organisation by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Caranua was set up in 2012 to manage funds contributed by the congregations to enhance the lives of the abuse survivors.

The organisation received a clear audit report, however Mr McCarthy pointed to "weakness in the board's controls in the granting of payments."

Ms Higgins said she accepted the recommendations made by the Comptroller and Auditor General and was in the process of implementing them. 

She also apologised for any hurt caused to victims as a result of comments she made in a newspaper article in which she was quoted as saying "some clients will never be happy". 

Under questioning from Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan, she said she regretted any pain or offence caused by those comments.

Ms Higgins said a decision was made in 2015 to prioritise new applicants over repeat applicants.

She said there was a backlog of repeat applicants of around 300 however, some committee members raised concerns that some abuse survivors were being told their cases were closed. 

The chair of the organisation David O'Callaghan acknowledged the service was "appalling" due to staff shortages at outset in 2014 and 2015. 

However, he said the service that was being offered now was "totally different". 

Under questioning from Sinn Féin deputy David Cullinane, the organisation's Ms Higgins said they were now getting a chance to enhance the service offered. 

However, Mr Cullinane raised concerns that salary costs had risen, despite the numbers of applicants.