Extra €4.8m Was Spent On Housing For Asylum Seekers

The annual audit of Government accounts has revealed a rise in spending on asylum seeker accommodation due to an unexpected increase in demand.

Although the numbers applying for asylum dropped from 11,634 in 2002 to 4,314 last year, the Department of Justice had to get an extra €4.8m in funding for accommodating them.

“The excess arose as the downward trend in accommodation demand for asylum seekers in the latter part of 2005 did not continue but instead increased in 2006,” its accounting officer said.

Last year, the total cost for asylum seeker accommodation was €78.8m, while the recently-formed Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service cost €52m. Asylum seekers are housed in accommodation centres around the country, such as Mosney in Co Meath, while their claims are being processed. They receive a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult but are not allowed to work.

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s annual audit involved looking at €44bn of spending across 41 government bodies last year. It found the UN did not pay its peacekeeping bills to the Department of Defence on time, only paying €5.9m of an expected €9.1m.

“The shortfall is due to delay in the re-imbursement by the UN of troop and equipment costs in respect of the UN Mission in Liberia,” the audit stated.

However, the UN did pay the department €39,800 due to the death of Army Ranger Sergeant Derek Mooney in a motor accident while serving in Liberia.

In a humane gesture, the Prison Service paid a total of €37,000 towards the funeral expenses of eight offenders who died while in prison.

The audit staff from the Comptroller’s office found unexpected savings across Government departments — although most of these were because projects had not gone ahead as planned.

The Government had expected the Moriarty Tribunal to finish its work last year but it saved €3.8m after it emerged that the tribunal’s investigations would continue on.

The Department of Justice spent less than a tenth of a planned €3m on a graffiti removal operation but this was because the project only started towards the end of last year “due to limited number of subcontractors to carry out work”.

The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism saved €3.8m out of its €20m allocation for Lansdowne Road redevelopment due to fact that construction was delayed by a residents’ appeal to An Bord Pleanala.

But there was good news from the National Parks Service which raised €80,000 (four times more than expected) from selling excess cattle from its parks.

In a positive sign for the future of the Bean an Ti, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs spent an extra €1.8m on its cultural schemes due to an increase in the number of students attending Gaeltacht courses. The Government bodies with the highest level of spending last year included the HSE (€12.495bn), the Department of Education — €7.6bn, the Department of Environment (€2.7bn) and the Department of Transport (€2.4bn). In contrast, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs spent €415m and the Department of Foreign Affairs spent €193m.

The audit, which is intended to provide assurances that public money is being “spent to good effect”, found Foreign Affairs had to get €133,000 extra funding to cover the cost of evacuating Irish citizens from the Lebanon last year, including the cost of chartering two aircraft.

The department also had to pay €75,000 to settle a personal injuries claim by a civilian arising from an incident at the residence of the Irish Ambassador in Warsaw. This was one of several compensation cases uncovered by the audit, with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources paying €25,000 to settle a personal injuries claim arising from a swimming accident.

The Department of Education paid €177,000 in compensation to three staff employed in its youth offender services and the Department of Social and Family Affairs paid compensation of €10,000 to an employee under the Employment Equality Acts.

The same department also had to pay €44,000 to three people for personal injuries sustained on its property.