Department of Transport underspent its capital budget by almost €100m in first quarter of the year

Coalition spokesman says officials in department are confident it will use all its spending allocation for capital projects by end of the year

The Department of Transport underspent its capital budget by almost €100 million in the first quarter of the year, the Government has said. The department had a capital budget of €219 million to spend in the first three months of 2023, but the Cabinet was told on Thursday that spending, including on road networks, had fallen behind allocation.

A spokesman for the Coalition said that officials in the department were confident that it would use all its spending allocation for capital projects – which comes to some €2.6 billion – by the end of the year. In a statement the Government said “it is normal at this point of the year for the level of spend to be quite low with a degree of underspend, with expenditure returning to profile by year-end”.

With the exchequer awash with cash other departments have struggled to roll out projects that account for the totality of their capital budgets. Earlier this year it transpired that the Department of Housing had failed to spend more than €1 billion earmarked for housing over the last three years in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis.

However, the problem of chronic overspending persists elsewhere in Government. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told Cabinet colleagues on Thursday that financial pressure on the health service continued in the first three months of the year.


According to figures given to Cabinet, the HSE reported a deficit to the end of March of €178 million. The HSE current allocation for the period was €5.33 billion but spending was over €5.5 billion, with the deficit in the early months of 2023 primarily due to spending in the early months of 2023 in acute hospitals.

According to HSE figures, there has been significantly higher demand for emergency department services, including among people aged over 75, as well as what the Government said was “a significant increase in inpatient and day cases, as well as inflation and pay pressures”.

The HSE had announced a temporary pause on senior management and administrative grade recruitment, with frontline staff hiring continuing. The Coalition said that when compared to a five-year average between 2018 and 2022, emergency department attendances are up 13 per cent and admissions are up 11 per cent. Compared to the same period last year inpatient and day cases are up 11 per cent and outpatient attendances are up 10 per cent.

A supplementary estimate of €1.4 billion was required for the Department of Health in 2022, with €1.2 billion due to Covid-related expenditure on the wave of infections associated with the emergence of the Omicron wave.

“Much of the remaining overspend of €200 million related to post-Budget 2022 decisions such as the Haddington Road Hours restoration, the pandemic payment and additional vaccination booster programme recommendations,” a Government spokesman said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times