External academic reviews process to ensure Govt is achieving objective of getting best value for taxpayers’ money

The Spending Review process undertaken by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, and which is now in its third year, facilitates a systematic examination of existing spending programmes across Government to assess their effectiveness in meeting policy objectives, and to identify scope for re-allocating funding to meet expenditure priorities.

The current Spending Review runs from 2017 to 2019. To date, it has led to the publication of over 50 analytical papers across a diverse range of areas including, but not limited to, health, housing, education, employment supports, workforce planning, digitisation and enterprise supports.

As the current process enters its final year, The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, has engaged an external academic to review the process. This review will assess whether the Spending Review process is achieving its objectives and where appropriate it will provide recommendations and actions on how the process can be improved for future rounds.

There are a range of examples of where a Spending Review analysis has facilitated the re-prioritisation of expenditure.

  • In the Education sector, decisions taken as part of Budget 2019 will see the creation of a new ring-fenced funding line, the Human Capital Initiative, to be established within the National Training Fund (NTF). This will draw down €60 million per annum from the accumulated surplus, over the period 2020 – 2024. The Spending Review analysis, supported by the independent review of the NTF and the corresponding Department of Education and Skills NTF Review Implementation Plan, will ensure that this investment supports a co-ordinated Higher Education, and Further Education and Training response, in meeting the skill and education needs of the economy.
  • As part of the Spending Review, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published two papers on policing. These related to the Efficiency and Control of Overtime Expenditure in An Garda Síochána and Policing Civilianisation in Ireland, focusing on lessons from international practice. These papers have directly informed both the budgetary process for 2019 as well as the medium term policing reform agenda.
  • A number of papers have been published in the area of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in the Spending Reviews of 2017 and 2018. There have been significant outcomes in improving service provision and enhancing the knowledge base of the schemes analysed with regard to employment supports, disability, work incentives and staffing.

Commenting on the process, Minister Donohoe said that: ‘The analysis and results produced within the Spending Review process provide my colleagues in Government and I, with a robust evidence-base on key expenditure issues. These papers inform discussions around Estimates proposals in the context of the Budget each year’.

Given the Government’s objective to responsibly manage the public finances, the 2019 Spending Review will seek to build on the progress in the past two years by:

  • Creating a larger stock of analysis and evaluation to support the Government in its resource-allocation decisions;
  • Underpinning efficiency and effectiveness across all areas of spending, with a greater focus upon outcomes and impacts;
  • Providing the evidence base for reform efforts across Departments and the wider public service;
  • Spotlighting areas of innovation and good practice, both in programme design and service delivery, that will be of wider interest and applicability; and
  • Ensuring that the Spending Reviews are more firmly embedded within the budgetary process.

Minister Donohoe continued: ‘I welcome the valuable input to the broader discussion around public expenditure policy that the Spending Review facilitates, not only by highlighting where we can make further incremental improvements but also by shining a light on areas where we are delivering, where our aims are being achieved and where taxpayers are getting value for money’.

Notes for Editors

The Spending Review process aims to improve how Government spending is allocated and maintained by:

  • Ensuring that spending moves away from programmes with poorer outcomes and from automatic increases;
  • Identifying areas of spending that require ongoing analysis if issues are emerging; and
  • Ensuring that this analysis forms part of the Estimates process.

The Spending Reviews are all available here.