Drug task forces face financial criticism


A Department of Health report has criticised the drug taskforces for demonstrating a lack of financial accountability or a coherent system to monitor performance since their conception 17 years ago.

The community-based organisations, established to combat drugs in society, will receive just over €28.1 million in State funding this year alone.

The review document, produced this month by the Department of Health and seen by The Irish Times, says that while there is a consensus that such checks and balances should be applied, there is no agreement on exactly how.

It calls for “a better level of assurance that public funds are being adequately accounted for”.

The report says there is also a recognition that drug use has spread across the country since the pro-gramme was first rolled out and expresses concern over the changing nature of substance abuse.

Substance abuse

The governing structures of the organisations, likely to be renamed “Drug and Alcohol Task Forces”, should be amended with this in mind, it says.

“There is now widespread concern about the misuse of cocaine, particularly when combined with other illegal substances and alcohol.

“A [study] on opiate use in Ireland between 2002 and 2007 also points to a nationwide spread of heroin use during this period.

“Other recent trends include the emergence of new psychoactive substances, the illicit supply and overuse of benzodiazepines and z-drugs and the increased prevalence of polydrug use.”

The report, which follows a similar review in 2006, focuses sharply on the fact there has been little accountability or transparency in relation to both the organisation’s effectiveness on the ground or its handling of finances.