Department returns almost €180 million of unused funds in 2018

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine had an underspend of approximately €200 million in 2018, of which €178 million was returned to the exchequer.

The remaining €22 million was carried forward by the department into 2019, according to a report from the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Expenditure

The department’s gross expenditure for 2018 was around €1.5 billion, the majority of which was spent on legally-enforceable commitments, which in turn were mainly made up of grants, schemes and sector supports.

Other costs include, but are not limited to: administration; salaries; maintenance of department infrastructure/buildings; and international commitments.

This figure is €400 million lower than the total provision made to the department for the year (which includes deferred funds from 2017). When ‘appropriations-in-aid’ (other funds that are not provided by the exchequer) are factored in to both the provision and expenditure figures, they work out as follows:

  • Net expenditure (from exchequer provision): €1.07 billion (approx.);
  • Net exchequer provision: €1.27 billion (approx.).

The total amount of expenditure on farm/sector supports and controls was €823 million for 2018, from a total provision for that year of €849 million.

The difference is due to variations across several schemes, grants and supports (which the report groups together into broader categories of schemes), the majority of which did not meet their individual provisions – although agri-environmental schemes saw a total overspend of €23 million.

The increased spending for these schemes was largely down to a €28 million increase in payouts under the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS), as a result of the 2018 fodder crisis. This is balanced against a €7 million underspend on locally-led schemes, apparently due to non-compliance of participants.

Monies provided under the category of ‘Development of agriculture and food (farm)’ stood at €77 million, of which €4.5 million was not spent. The report suggests that this was as a result of a low level of payment claims under Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) II.

For Knowledge Transfer, just over €1.3 million was unspent from a provision of €23 million, due to two factors: the extension of the scheme, which in turn delayed payments; and “higher than anticipated” levels of non-compliance with the scheme.

Funds provided in the category of forestry and bioenergy saw the most notable gap between provision and expenditure in terms of underspending. Of the €105 million provided, over €11 million was not spent.

Fodder crisis

The fodder crisis appears to have been a significant driver of expenditure in 2018 when it came to grants, schemes and supports.

In the category of ‘other schemes’, the exchequer provision was €339,000. However, the expenditure in this category was almost 10 times that amount, due to measures taken to mitigate the fodder shortage.

It is also worth noting, though, that a supplementary provision of €7 million was in the pipeline to deal with this issue, based on Teagasc estimates of the projected shortfall in fodder.

However, according to the report, the amount of emergency fodder being purchased was not as high as estimated, meaning the supplementary €7 million was not used.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s report can be viewed here.

CLASSIFIED ADVERTS