One in five motorists evading fines, report finds
State spending watchdog says Government debt rose by almost 14% in 2012
Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, the State’s public spending watchdog, has called for the Garda to urgently address ‘significant’ shortcomings in the fixed penalty system. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
Up to one in five drivers are evading fines because of weaknesses in the fixed penalty system, an investigation has found.
Offenders are getting away with breaking the law because their cars are registered to a company or because officials cannot track them down.
There is also a high failure rate in serving summons by the Garda, with the C&AG finding that around half the summonses issued were not served.
The findings were revealed today in the report published by the Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, the State’s public spending watchdog.
Mr McCarthy called for the Garda to urgently address “significant” shortcomings in the fixed penalty system to make sure it is fair and maintains public confidence.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan ordered a review into the fixed charge penalty system earlier this year. The system came under the spotlight after it emerged senior gardai were being investigated for mass wiping of penalty points from driving licences.
The report also finds Government debt rose almost 14 per cent to € 192.5 billion in 2012.
The report, which examines how public money has been spent, and whether value for money has been achieved, found General Government Debt - which measures State indebtedness - was estimated at €192.5 billion at the end of 2012 compared to €169 billion at the end of 2011.
The report also found accrued pension entitlements of public servants are “a significant liability” of the State. The National Pension Reserve Fund was valued at €14.7 billion on December 31st, 2012, up from €13.4 billion the previous year. The value of the State’s investment in the banks from the National Pension Reserve Fund has fallen by over €12 billion. The report finds State had injected €20.8 billion from the National Pension Reserve Fund into re-capitalising the banks by the end of 2012. The market value of the investments in the banks was €8.6 billion at the end of last year.
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Other key findings:
Anglo compensation: Some €12.7 million in compensation has been paid to 817 depositors with Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) - formerly Anglo Irish Bank - since its liquidation. The report says the compensation was paid to the depositors by the Central Bank for its deposit protection accounts.
Damage claims: The State is facing a potential liability of over €1.1 billion arising from personal injury and property damage claims against it and certain State agencies, according to the report.
The report says the State Claims Agency, which manages such claims, had reported that at the end of 2012 the estimated potential liability in respect of all active claims was €1.13 billion. It says €970 million of this is in respect of clinical personal injury claims while about €160 million is related to other forms of claims.
Courts savings: The Courts Service has generated annual savings of €163,000 on the operation of the new Criminal Courts of Justice complex in Dublin following a benchmarking exercise in relation to services such as cleaning and security.
Land Swap: The State has to pay €32.6 million to a firm of builders because it could not deliver a site in accordance with the terms of the land swap agreement.
Abandoned project: The State spent €3.3 million on a building for the new State Pathology offices before it abandoned the project and demolished the partially completed structure.
Waste management: The report identifies systemic deficiencies in waste management and this has led to the EU requiring the State to take remediation action at a number of sites in the State and to the end of 2012 this has cost the State €119 million.
Welcoming the report, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee John Mc Guinness TD questioned the ability of the State to effectively run schemes. He said the State must ensure only those that are eligible receive State services and ensure the gap between what should be raised in tax and what is actually raised is narrowed.
“What the report is saying is that in a range of areas, the checks and balances are not working well enough and that leads, for instance, to doctors getting paid capitation grants for people who had medical cards but who have moved abroad or whose circumstances have changed so that their entitlement is lost,” he said.
“The results of random audits in both social welfare and Revenue should be a cause of concern as these are showing up weaknesses in terms of tax compliance and eligibility for schemes. Both of these organisations will have to show how their systems and controls have improved so that overpayments are avoided and the proper level of tax is collected.”