Proper Engagement on Budget Necessary

Session: 2009/2010

Date: 11 March 2010

Reference: F&P 05/09/10

Assembly Committees must be given the opportunity to engage with their Departments over budget proposals. That’s the key message coming from the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel which today published its response to the Executive’s Review of 2010-11 Spending Plans for NI Departments in a report co-ordinated on behalf of the Assembly’s scrutiny committees.

The Committee Chairperson, Jennifer McCann, said: “The Committee welcomes the Executive’s proactive approach in seeking to manage the public expenditure pressures totalling £367m in 2010-11. That said, the Committee raised concerns at the level and range of emerging pressures as far back as October 2008. The requirement for a mini-Budget at this time reflects the need to establish a formal budget process going forward, which will maximise the contribution from elected representatives in the Assembly and from the wider public.

“The Committee is extremely disappointed that detailed spending proposals were not made available by all departments, and seven out of eleven Assembly Committees expressed some level of dissatisfaction at the information their Department provided to them. This seriously inhibits Committees when carrying out their scrutiny role. The Committee for Finance and Personnel has identified a range of measures to improve engagement on budgetary issues and avoid a recurrence of this situation.

“In the current economic climate it is essential that the best possible return is achieved for available resources. In this respect, the Committee will also be reporting to the Assembly shortly on the outcome of its detailed investigation on the drive for greater public sector efficiency and effectiveness.”

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