Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure Seán Fleming has called for the State Claims Agency to take action to rein in the increasing cost of expenses, particularly legal expenses it is incurring handling cases on behalf of the State.
The State Claims Agency has responsibility for the management of personal injury and property damage claims against the State. The total paid out in claims in 2014 was €86.5m. On top of this, they paid out a whopping €54.5m mainly in legal fees. This means for every €1,000 paid out to claimants, many of whom have suffered life changing events, the agency paid out an additional €620 in legal and other fees.
Deputy Fleming has said that this is far too much. He said the balance of amounts paid to claimants compared with payments to the legal provision is all wrong. More of the payments by the State Claims Agency should go to claimants and not to the legal profession.
Deputy Fleming commented, “The situation whereby these fees constitute 62% of the amount paid out in awards is unacceptable. In fact the situation has worsened considerably since 2013 when it was already at a very high level of 50%.
“In August 2012, the State Claims Agency announced a new procurement structure for legal fees. Despite assertions by the agency this has failed as the total amount spent on legal fees has rocketed from €39m in 2012 to €42m in 2013 and nearly €50m in 2014.
“This is public money which would be far better spent in other areas of need. The agency needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a formula to rein in these costs. If needs be the State should consider introducing legislation whereby solicitors and barristers could be employed directly on a salary to handle these case. The days of the legal profession hiding behind restrictive practices must be brought to an end.”