Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath TD has said the internal and external investigations commissioned by the Department of Finance into the €3.6 billion ‘accounting error’ identified last year should be completed and published without delay. Deputy McGrath was commenting following a Dáil written reply he received from the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan on the issue.
Deputy McGrath stated, “The Department of Finance realised last October that this error had been made in the reported figure for Ireland’s General Government Debt for the end of 2010, and the story broke publicly on 1 November 2011.
“When the Secretary General of the Department of Finance appeared before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on the issue on 3 November, he said he hoped to have an internal review of the error completed by the end of November. We are still awaiting the publication of this report and the external review being undertaken by Deloitte.
“The €3.6 billion error was a deeply embarrassing incident for the Department of Finance and undermined the integrity of Ireland’s national financial reporting systems at a most sensitive time for our economy. It is essential that we have absolute clarity as to what exactly happened and why the systems in the Department did not pick up on the error much earlier.
“There have been leaked reports in the media that the officials within the NTMA raised the issue with the Department of Finance on a number of occasions over many months but to no avail. Details of all correspondence between the NTMA and the Department of Finance should be made public along with the report.
“I believe these reports should be completed and published without any further delay so that a true account of what happened is confirmed. The priority is to ensure that the Department’s systems and processes have adequate safeguards to prevent a recurrence of a basic error such as this. The starting point in that regard is to ensure there is full accountability for this €3.6 billion error.”
The reply to the parliamentary question submitted by Deputy McGrath is included below.
DÁIL QUESTION NO 162
To ask the Minister for Finance the current status of the internal report requested by the Secretary General of his Department into the €3.6 billion accounting error in the reported figure for Ireland’s general Government debt for end 2010; the person who is preparing this report; when it is expected to be completed and given to him; if he will further give a progress report into the external review of the systems in Department, the National Treasury Management Agency and the Central Statistics Office which was promised by him when the mistake came to light on 1 November 2011; the person who is conducting this external review; when it is expected to be completed; if he intends to publish in full the internal report and the external review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Michael McGrath.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 21st February, 2012.
Ref No: 9379/12
Minister for Finance (Mr Noonan) : A draft of the internal report has been prepared by management in my Department with the professional support of the Department’s Internal Audit Unit. Following advice from the Attorney General’s Office, it is being circulated to some of the parties involved who will be allowed sufficient time to provide their final comments on it. Thereafter, the report will be finalised and submitted to me and then to the Government.
Deloitte Consultants have been appointed to undertake the external review which is now under way. I expect the external report to be finalised by the end of the first quarter of this year.
My intention is, subject to legal advice and in a timely manner, to submit both reports to the Committee of Public Accounts and make them public.
Although this error was most regrettable, it was a statistical reporting discrepancy where our debt level was mistakenly stated as being higher than it actually was, but which had no impact on the 2011 budgetary deficit.