herald

Friday 9 December 2016

Watchdog warned of staff shortages issue

Spending

The State's public-spending watchdog last year warned that it was so badly resourced, it could progress less than a tenth of the reporting topics it had identified.

In a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), the Comptroller and Auditor General's office said staff numbers had fallen by 14pc since 2008, with the number assigned to reporting work falling by more than 40pc.

The C&AG's office gives opinions on the financial accounts of State bodies, but also reports on matters relating to value for money and the administration of public funds.

In documents released under Freedom of Information, the C&AG's office pointed out that its financial audit remit was statutorily mandated and subject to international standards.

In a letter to DPER secretary general Robert Watt in May of last year, the C&AG's office said its ability to do its reporting work had been "severely constrained".

"The office has identified over 130 potential reporting topics which warrant consideration as matters that might require additional examination outside of the financial audit frame.

"With current resources, less than one-tenth of potential topics can be progressed," the letter to Mr Watt read.

"Resourcing levels are such that the office's ability to highlight issues regarding effectiveness, efficiency and economy is severely constrained. It is also difficult to respond in a timely fashion with time-critical examinations," the letter added.

The C&AG's office said that following the correspondence with the Department of Public Expenditure, additional funding of €760,000 was provided for this year.

"The funding was provided to increase the numbers involved in reporting work and to enable the timeliness of audit certification to be brought forward.

"Overall the numbers employed will increase by 14 to 164," the body said.

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