Budgeting and Accountability

A report published today (Friday 24 May 2024) from Northern Ireland’s Auditor General has found that nearly £92 million of Capital funding, which could have been spent by the Northern Ireland Executive, was returned to His Majesty’s (HM) Treasury over a five-year period.

Dorinnia Carville’s report on Budgeting and Accountability sets out a review of the NI Executive’s spend against budget allocations between 2018-19 and 2022-23, identifying overspends and underspends by Departments and the reasons for these. The report also identifies funding returned to HM Treasury and therefore lost to the NI Executive. 

It notes that, a total of £2.1 billion was returned to HM Treasury by the NI Executive, during the five-year period examined. However, it highlights that £2.0 billion (95 per cent) of this did not represent a loss of spending power for the Executive as the amount returned related to non-cash funding which could not be used for any other purpose.

In terms of cash available for spending on public services, only £0.3 million of non-ringfenced resource funding was returned to HM Treasury during the five financial years. The report notes that the £91.8 million of returned Capital is a significant amount of money which equates, for example, to the projected final cost of the new maternity hospital in the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital.


Commenting on today’s report, Dorinnia Carville said:


“Generally speaking, the report concludes that the absence of multi-year budgets, during this period of unprecedented pay and price pressures, inhibits the departments’ ability to effectively plan, finance and invest in the long-term delivery of public services in NI to maximise the benefit to public services.”

”Over the period examined in this report, departments and bodies, including my own, underspent on their total budget allocation. The most significant of these underspends are discussed in my report, which highlights a number of contributing factors. In most cases, however, these underspends do not result in a loss of funding to the Northern Ireland Executive”.

The report also examines progress made against the recommendations of a 2022 report by the NI Assembly’s Public Account’s Committee on the budget process in Northern Ireland. Today’s report notes that the absence of a functioning Executive meant that a number of issues identified have yet to be progressed.