How much of department’s €1.39 billion goes to Teagasc and Bord Bia?

A breakdown of funding to state agencies and public bodies under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been published by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The full report – published last week on Tuesday, November 26 – outlines details of the department’s appropriation accounts for 2017 (the latest such figures available) which were initially presented to the committee at a meeting last June. [The background to the report is detailed below]

The report – available here – also identifies areas of “weakness” within the department, described by the committee as “unsatisfactory”.

According to the document a total gross expenditure of €1.39 billion was recorded for the department in 2017 – this represents an increase of 10% on the 2016 figure (€1.26 billion).

The funding allocation is broken down under four specific programme areas: Food Safety, Animal and Plant Health and Animal Welfare (€204 million); Farm/Sector Supports and Controls (€726 million); Policy and Strategy (€338 million); and Seafood Sector (€119 million).

The division of expenditure for 2017 is displayed in this graphic (below):

Data source: Public Accounts Committee

Described as “voted” expenditure, the 2017 department coffers included the provision of funding to the following state agencies and public bodies: Teagasc; Bord Bia; Marine Institute; Bord Iascaigh Mhara; food aid donations (World Food Programme); Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund; Cedra Rural Innovation and development fund; and Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.

Teagasc – the authority responsible for research and development, training and advisory services in the agri-food sector and which comprised of a total staff body (professional, technical, administration and farm/domestic) of 1,217 individuals in 2017  – received the largest share of the department’s funding in 2017 at just over €128 million.

Bord Bia received almost €40 million in funding according to the presented accounts; while the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund received €80 million.

This table (below) gives a breakdown of the department funding for 2017, which again was presented to PAC last June:

Data source: Public Accounts Committee

The document goes on to outline that the Department of Agriculture recorded a €24 million surplus in 2017.

A total of €23.8 million in unspent capital – mainly under the Farm/Sector Supports and Control Programme – was carried over into 2018.

It states that the remaining €207,000 was surrendered to the Exchequer.

Department ‘weaknesses’

The report also draws attention to some “weaknesses” that exist in the department, namely: issues relating to “asset management”; and “non-compliant procurement”.

On asset management, at the time that report was published, it states that it “was not possible” for the department to determine whether its asset register had been “over-valued or under-valued”.

It outlines that the department informed the committee that a “fixed assets project”, to establish a comprehensive assets register, was “ongoing”.

It is understood that committee members questioned the department about its management of fixed assets and referred to the fact that the department “could not locate” some of its assets.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) – Seamus McCarthy – informed the committee that there was a variety of assets that could not be accounted for.

The document says that he explained that the department was different to most public service organisations as it operated farms and research centres as part of its remit.

On the asset register, “location was not recorded for some assets”, the report states.

It is also stated that the department informed the committee that there were two components to its fixed assets register project: firstly, to determine the exact number of assets the department owns across its various locations and facilities; and secondly, to develop a system to ensure that this issue “does not re-occur in the future”.

‘Recurring issues’

The C&AG also drew attention to the level of non-compliant procurement in the department.

It states that in 2017 the department entered into 38 contracts – worth €5.6 million – that did not comply with procurement rules.

The C&AG informed the committee that non-compliant procurement was “a recurrent issue” for the department. Members sought information on the control mechanisms the department used during the procurement process.

The department informed the committee that it had established a central procurement unit and that every division in the department had a procurement liaison officer.

It informed the committee that the level of non-compliance was “decreasing” and that its aim was to eradicate non-compliant procurement “within two to three years”.

‘Unsatisfactory’

Although under its conclusions and recommendations, the PAC committee states that it is of the view that the Department of Agriculture is “working to rectify” the deficiencies identified, the committee also notes that four of the seven recommendations from its report have “yet to be implemented”.

The committee recommends that the remaining recommendations from the C&AG report are implemented in full in 2020.

It states that the absence of a comprehensive asset management register in the department indicates “a lack of oversight” regarding the management of state property.

The committee recommends that the department completes its project to establish a comprehensive database of all state assets in its possession “without delay”.

The number of non-compliant procurement contracts, worth €5.6 million, entered into by the department in 2017 is described as “unsatisfactory”.

In conclusion, the committee recommends that all steps are taken to ensure that all departmental contracts adhere to procurement rules and that non-compliance in the department is eliminated by the end of 2022 – as indicated by the department.

Background

The information above is taken from the Oireachtas Public Account Committee’s seventh periodic report, which focuses primarily on matters arising from engagements of the PAC from April 2019 to July 2019.

The committee examined financial statements audited, and matters reported on, by the C&AG.

For the period under review, the committee met with witnesses from 12 different Government departments and agencies including: the Department of Agriculture; the Central Statistics Office; the Environmental Protection Agency; An Garda Síochána; the Department of Finance; and others.

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