Department expenditure close to €129 million behind schedule

The gross voted expenditure that was forecast by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was close to €129 million behind schedule at the end of November.

The issue was raised recently with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, by Fianna Fail’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue in a parliamentary question.

In response, Minister Creed said: “A profile of projected expenditure on a monthly basis is drawn up at the beginning of each year to anticipate the department’s funding requirements and facilitate financial management over the course of the year.

“The timing of expenditure is difficult to forecast and may vary significantly during the year for a variety of reasons, such as: the level of payments under demand-led multi-year schemes; a different level of participation in some schemes than anticipated; the pattern of drawdown of grants by state bodies; the levels of disease incidences; and payment of compensation.

“As mentioned by the deputy, the department’s expenditure at the end of November was behind profile by €128.5 million, of which €87.6 million is current and €40.9 million is capital.

“Some of this amount arises in budget lines such as pay, research and the sheep welfare scheme – where we are now certain the full allocation will not be required this year.

In other cases some of the expenditure profiled for earlier months, though delayed, may arise before the year end.

Meanwhile, the minister outlined that he sought and received permission from the Dail – via the supplementary estimates process – to reallocate funds from some areas where savings were certain in order to provide funding for existing schemes, such as GLAS and ANC and new initiatives – particularly in relation to Brexit and the World Food Programme.

Concluding, he said: “Most of this extra expenditure has not yet taken place, so it is not reflected in the end of November figures.

“The department’s staff are fully focused on ensuring that scheme payments are made to eligible recipients in all schemes and in this regard the submission of Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) will be an important factor in maximising payments for GLAS in 2018, which is the scheme with the most significant amount of funding yet to be paid.”