The Department of the Taoiseach (the PMO) and the Ministry of Finance are tasked with monitoring line ministries. This seems to result in duplication of functions and expertise, with divisions in the PMO and the Ministry of Finance shadowing the line ministries. A crucial area here is the annual preparation of expenditure estimates, which involves individual ministries submitting preliminary estimates to Finance, followed by a battle for resources as Finance tries to reconcile the total with the global amount available for public spending. This is the stage in the budgetary process when monitoring of line ministries is most effective, and when spending has to be justified in terms of overall government priorities. The effectiveness of this monitoring is difficult to assess objectively. It is certainly far from perfect. It has not prevented massive cost overruns in many recent infrastructure projects, for example. It is also clear that forceful ministers are more successful than others in defending particular spending programs. Until 2007, the strong performance of the economy and the buoyancy of public finances hid structural weaknesses in this area. The Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programs, published in 2009, identified potential expenditure savings of €5.3 billion per year, amounting to 9.3% of relevant expenditure, with associated reductions of over 17,300 in public service employment numbers . Much of these potential savings arise from the elimination of duplication and overlap in ministerial spending. If this figure is realistic, it implies that coordination and control of line ministries have been seriously deficient in recent years.
The Report of the Special Group on Public Services Numbers and Expenditure is available at: