The payment of €2.3 million to just two consultants, a total of €30,000 a month for seven years, for their work for Donegal County Council was highlighted in the Dáil by Donegal South-West Independent deputy, Thomas Pringle.
Speaking on a Private Members’ Bill which sought to make local authority expenditure more accountable to the Dáil, he said the work was to advise the county manager on management change within the local authority.
“This work was not tendered, was not shown anywhere in the accounts, was not in the budget,” he said. “It was, in effect, a project of the county manager’s. When this expenditure was revealed by the Local Government Audit Service, there was great reluctance on the part of the executive to deal with it. I was the only councillor who raised it on the floor of the council meeting. There was consternation that I had the audacity to raise the matter. Rather than justifying the expenditure or investigating how it was spent, the issue was personalised into a vendetta when this use of public moneys should have been questioned.”
A small budget was allocated each year for organisational development but there was expenditure of hundreds of thousands of euro more each year, he said. This was tweaked at a later date and sorted out.
“This kind of activity should not be allowed to continue and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts should be enabled to scrutinise such expenditure so that this could not happen in the future,” he said. “There must be accountability, yet unfortunately, councillors cannot enforce it. The Local Government Audit Service can do its bit and provide reports but, unfortunately, councillors do not scrutinise them nor do they ask enough questions. There is no real debate within local authorities as to the proper expenditure of public moneys. This is where the system falls down.”