Seanad Éireann - Volume 145 - 20 December, 1995
Appropriation Bill, 1995 [ Certified Money Bill ]: Committee and Final Stages.
Sections 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.
 SECTION 4.
Question proposed: “That section 4 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Roche Mr. Roche
Mr. Roche: I accept the Minister's point that it is brave of any Government to set targets. However, the targets are not entirely voluntary in this case because, as the Minister is aware, there are certain responsibilities under the Maastricht criteria. The Minister paid handsome tribute to previous Governments and I accept the role played by the Opposition. However, an extraordinary game is being played with the public accounts. The Minister is a businessman and he is aware that one cannot retrospectively secure overdrafts. This is what is being done in parts of this legislation and the sham approach is a pity.
The creation of a special account, involving £60 million in this case, is not something anybody would condemn in itself. It is a good thing and difficult to do within the constraints imposed on the Government. However, the accounting procedures being adopted are close to fraudulent in the true sense of the word. I accept the Minister for Finance faces certain problems and he must ultimately come broadly within the 2 to 3 per cent range. However, in reality, there is a fragmentation of what was a brave target and the attempt to overcome that through fraudulent accounting practice is reprehensible. Whether it involves this Government or a Government of any other political shade, it is important that Members of the Oireachtas point out that certain standards of accounting within the public accounts, which are loose and shoddy in themselves, are being thrown out the window. This is a pity.
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Coveney) Avril Doyle
Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. Coveney): I absolutely refute the notion that the Government is acting in a fraudulent manner. I accept it is a valid debating point but the Government acted in a most transparent fashion several months ago. It was open to advice in the Department  of Finance and legal advice from the Attorney General. It did not act, in any sense, in an underhand or fraudulent way. I accept it is a debatable point but the Senator's language is over strong.
Mr. Roche Mr. Roche
Mr. Roche: I would not like to mar the occasion by being over strong. My information is that there is the gravest concern within the Department of Finance about the accounting procedures being used with regard to this matter. When I was an official in the Department of Finance, this type of procedure would not have been used. Whether one ultimately calls it fraudulent or creative, the Government and the Minister for Finance were courageous in setting a target. That is a good practice to which all Governments should adhere. When a target is set one cannot start to change the rules, yet the rules are being changed in this case. The precedents quoted are not true precedents. An overdraft is being created and that is not the way to approach matters in business or public accounting. I accept what the Minister has said about the bravery of setting a target. That is a good procedure.
The Minister referred earlier to the difficulty of containing the expenditure of demand led Departments in particular. However, we can anticipate significant savings in social welfare as unemployment reduces. There should be positive benefits in that. On the social welfare side of the accounts we are seeing the emergence of a dangerous trend. This is more than a debating point and we will no doubt return to it in the New Year.
Question put and agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without recommendation, received for final consideration and ordered to be returned to the Dáil.
Seanad Éireann 145 Appropriation Bill, 1995 [ Certified Money Bill ]: Committee and Final Stages.