Tuesday, 15 June 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
562. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department has achieved the target, set out in the initiation of the expenditure review initiative in 1997, that all Government expenditure be subject to a formal review under that initiative every three years; and if not, the areas of expenditure in respect of which the three yearly review has not taken place. [17582/04]
563. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the areas of expenditure of his Department in respect of which an expenditure review under the expenditure review initiative has not yet been completed and published. [17597/04]
The initial target of the expenditure review initiative was to review all expenditure programmes over a three year period. However, a review of the process by the Department of Finance and expenditure review central steering committee in 2000-01 found that this target had been over-ambitious and that a more focused approach to the selection of review themes was required. This view was supported by a Comptroller and Auditor General value for money study of the expenditure review initiative in 2001 which proposed that a more realistic target should be set that took into account the level of evaluative capacity in Departments generally.
In June 2001 the Government decided, inter alia, that the Department of Finance and individual Departments and offices should compile and agree a work plan of review topics based on specific selection criteria such as programmes selected for review should reflect Government priorities or strategic result areas, involve significant levels of expenditure, etc. Subsequently, in May 2002, the Government approved a schedule of expenditure review themes proposed for the first year of the next three year planning horizon, 2002-04, and noted the themes proposed for 2003 and 2004. In April 2003, the expenditure review central steering committee asked Departments and offices to update their expenditure review plans, again in consultation with the Department of Finance. The committee emphasised the Government’s selection criteria and advised that Departments and offices should select a small number of programmes/areas involving major policy issues or significant levels of expenditure. On foot of this process, revised expenditure review plans were drawn up by Departments and offices.
Overall, nine expenditure reviews of my Department’s programmes have been completed to date. In addition, the major infrastructure programmes with which my Department is concerned have been evaluated as part of the mid-term review of different operational programmes under the current community support framework and national development plan. Taking account of this, I am satisfied that the substantive spending programmes which come within my Department’s remit have been reviewed since the inception of the expenditure review initiative.
564. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Comptroller and Auditor General that his Department should analyse underlying trends in regard to planning appeals in order better to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the planning system; and the results of this analysis to date. [17601/04]
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): Following publication of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report in 2002, a committee of officials from my Department and An Bord Pleanála was established to review the trends in planning appeals. An Bord Pleanála has carried out studies into certain categories of appeals, which were published in its 2003 annual report. Studies into further categories of appeals are currently underway and will be published in due course.
Following on from a recommendation in the report that identifying and investigation variations in the rates of appeals against decisions of individual planning authorities and in the rate of overturn of decisions on appeal could point to areas where action might be taken by my Department to ensure consistency of planning authority decision-making, my Department is also engaged in a study of the number of decisions of the individual planning authorities that are appealed to An Bord Pleanála. It is intended on foot of this study to develop a system of performance indicators for planning authorities in 2005 in consultation with the relevant sub-committee of the City and County Managers Association, with which regular meetings are held, to address the concerns outlined in the report.
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