In [ June] of the preceding year, the Minister for Finance prepares the budgetary strategy memorandum for the government setting out the Department of Finance’s medium-term assessment of budgetary and economic matters. It reviews the current year and compares projections of revenue and expenditure in maintaining public services for each of the three subsequent years.
The government approves targets for the main budgetary figures. The Department of Finance publishes a pre-budget outlook in October giving updated medium-term economic outlooks for the following three years.
The Department of Finance conducts detailed discussions with other departments on expenditure allocations for the following three years. The Department of Finance frames proposals for adjustments to the allocation and they are bought by the Minister to the government for approval.
In late [November/early December], a White paper is published on receipts and expenditures, just before the budget. The Minister for Finance presents the budget statement to the Dáil formally on the first Wednesday in September, setting out taxation policy, expenditure decisions, and budgetary targets. As of 2013, the cycle has changed so that the budget is presented in September / October
In late December, the annual Appropriation Act is passed to give effect to the estimates, including supplementary estimates. The Act also has the effect of making provision for the basis of expenditure in the following year before estimates for that year are passed. Before the end of December, the statement of authorised issues is laid before the Dáil. The audit procedure commences with the preparation of the appropriation accounts.
The Finance Bill was traditionally published in February to give legislative effects to the budget statement. It is now published in October. The bills refer to the Dáil Select Committee of Finance and Public Expenditure.
Financial resolutions on tax matters passed from budget day must be confirmed in the Finance Bill within four months if they are to continue in effect.
The estimates volume for year is published along with the public capital program in February. Individual estimates are referred to the relevant select Committees relevant to the particular vote, together with the annual output statement.
The Dáil approves estimates by financial resolutions, allowing expenditure in accordance with the resolutions. Before the Dáil approves estimates, expenditure in the year on existing services is authorised under the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act 1965.
Between March and June, the Department of Finance formulates expenditure policy in the context of economic and fiscal policy for the three-year period.
The estimate sets out descriptions of the services to be financed by the vote. They are said to be within the ambit of the vote. The services outlined in the ambit must fall within the statutory powers of the minister concerned. The wording of the ambit is included in the annual Appropriation Act and is the basis of approval of the expenditures. Expenditure outside the ambit cannot be approved other than through a supplementary estimate.
The estimates are presented in three parts. Part one sets out the formal description of the services namely the ambit of the vote. Part two names the department responsible for accounting for the vote. Part three is published only in the revised estimates and gives supporting detail for the information of the Dáil, including separate operating budgets showing total expenditure and income of certain major grant-aided bodies.
Every estimate for supply services is considered separately and in motion by the Dáil. Once passed by financial resolution, the estimate may be issued from the exchequer. For capital carry over a balance of a vote remaining unspent at the end of the year, is surrendered to the exchequer cannot be used for the following years’ service.
The Appropriation Act gives effect to the individual estimates voted by the Dáil for that year. It is passed when consideration of all departmental estimates including supplementary and additional estimates have been finalised by the Dáil. It definitively appropriates for the particular services for sums voted by the Dáil. It specifies by vote the amount of unspent capital expenditure monies that may be carried over at the end of each financial year.
Each department or office with a vote in the Appropriation Act must prepare an account, known as an appropriation account in relation to the supply grant administered by it for submission to the Comptroller and Auditor General. The appropriation account shows the outturn against the estimate and incorporates other information including information on accruals.
Legislation authorises the Minister for Finance in every financial year to issue out of the Central Fund in respect of any supply/service for which a sum is appropriated in the preceding year’s Appropriation Act, sums up to four-fifths of the aggregate appropriates in that Appropriation Act. The Minister must request the Dáil during the financial year to grant supply for the service in question and the Minister must consider each issue and application, as necessary.
Where amount of the estimate passed exceeds four-fifth of the amount appropriated in the preceding year, the amount that may be issued from the exchequer under the act is automatically increased by the difference between four fifth and the estimate as passed. The Act requires the Minister for Finance to lay a statement of authorised issues before the Dáil every December. It lists each vote by name and number and indicates the amount of the authorised issue in each case.
Accounting officers must have the appropriation account for each vote under their control signed and present them to the Department of Finance and Comptroller and Auditor General before 1st April in the year following that to which it relates.
Each department maintains an asset register setting out the description, historical cost, and depreciation, the present value of material capital assets. Capital assets are those used on a basis of more than one year.
The public capital program is published annually by the Department of Finance. It sets out investment programs and financing for government departments, local authorities and other entities.
Departments and offices must monitor and manage expenditure within the amount approved. They must submit a profile of expenditure on a monthly basis to the Department of Finance for approval.
The National Treasury Management Agency borrows money on behalf of the exchequer and manages the national debt. It is subject to the control of the Minister for Finance.
Most government debt is issued through government bonds which are floated on the stock exchange. They are issued by the NTMA in the form of issues or additional tranches of existing issues. The maturities vary from short to long term. Exchequer notes issued are short-term debt instruments with a maturity of between a week and a year. They may be issued directly from the NTMA.
The NTMA operates government small-scale schemes including savings bonds, certificates, national installment savings and prize bonds. Funds deposited with the Post Office Savings Bank are invested through the NTMA. The NTMA reports in its annual report on details of the national debt and other funds and loans under its management.
The budget is the annual financial statement by the Minister(s) for Finance and Public Expenditures. The current side of the budget is the expenditure side votes in the form non-capital expenditure on supply services as well as expenditure and Central Fund services. The revenue side comprises tax revenue and non-tax revenue. If there is a deficit it is funded by borrowing. Alternatively, there may be a surplus.
Capital expenditure consists of voted capital expenditure on supply services and capital expenditure under enactments. It is funded by exchequer resources and capital receipts. There may be a capital budget deficit or surplus.
The difference between revenue and expenditure on the exchequer account for the Central Fund is the exchequer balance. A deficit is the exchequer borrowing requirement. Another measure of budget deficit is the general government balance. This is the reference used by the stability and growth pact and used by the EU in measuring government deficits.
It measures the performance of all parts of the government other than commercial state-sponsored bodies, including non-commercial state-sponsored bodies and local government. It includes the social insurance fund, national pension reserve funds and other funds managed by government and agents of the government.
The Minister’s financial statement sets out the targets for the forthcoming period for approval by the Dáil. The Dáil approves the budget measures by means of financial resolutions.
Under the Provisional Collection of Taxes act, financial resolutions passed by the Dáil alone have a life of four-month period. They cease to have effect if they are not encompassed in the Finance Bills which is read for a second time within four months.
This social insurance fund is derived from PRSI contributions from employers, employees, and self-employed persons as well as voluntary contributions. It finances a range of contributory benefits. It is audited annually by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Under the EU Stability and Growth Pact, Euro EU states must maintain a GDP ratio of 60 percent and a debt to GDP ratio of 3 percent. If this is breached, the excessive deficit procedure applies. These provisions were radically changed after the Fiscal Treaty. See the separate article on the Fiscal Treaty.
The Appropriation Act specifies approval of expenditure for each vote and approved an appropriation in aid figures. An excess vote may arise where the total of expenditure under the heads has exceeded., where there is a shortfall in appropriations in aid not met by savings, or where the total grant in aid has exceeded.
Many schemes subsist only on the basis of the Appropriation Act. There is no permanent legislation dealing with them. This may occur in relation to temporary schemes, uncontroversial schemes, relatively small schemes, or may otherwise arise.
Where a new service is created that is not within the ambit of an existing vote, a new subhead in the vote should be created. A new service may be provided by a supplementary estimate. Where new functions are involved, an allocation of functions orders made under section 6(1) of the Ministers and Secretary Amendment Act 1939.
It allocates the functions to a relevant department or office. In the absence of an allocation of functions, the Department of the Taoiseach may undertake functions not specifically assigned to another entity.
Apart from the Appropriation Act, certain classes of expenditure are the subject of specific legislation. Changes in the expenditure concerned are usually effected by an amending bill in that area rather than the Appropriation Act.
Vote for Department
A vote for a department may include a grant to an outside body usually under the department’s auspices. Grants are subject to the general restrictions applying to payment from subheads. They must be accounted for to the Comptroller and Auditor General. Legislation or the establishing order for the body will usually include provisions for the management of accountability.
A grant in aid may be the body’s principal or only source of revenue. It may constitute a head or subhead. Bodies funded by grants in aid may be audited by the C&AG if they are listed in the C&AG schedule or the legislation establishing them so provides. Apart from this, the C&AG has a right to inspect the books of organisations that receive more than 50 percent funding from the exchequer directly or indirectly.
A grant in aid appears as a separate subhead in the vote. It will be payable in accordance with procedures approved by the Minister for Finance. Where it is paid directly from a vote or indirectly to a department account, the accounting officer should be satisfied in relation to the accounting and organisation arrangements of the grantee. The accounting officer should obtain an account of the expenditure.