Assembly questions… and answers!!

21 04 2010

HOLIDAY MONEY

From the DUP manifesto:

The DUP will ensure that expenses incurred by our Members will be made publicly available on a regular basis. [page 70]

And:

We are committed to rooting out waste and cutting bureaucracy. [page 15]

T’riffic.

To test that, why not take a look at what happens in a DUP-run office like the OFMDFM?

Step forward my personal hero, Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Burns who asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister to detail the costs incurred by the trip to the White House on St Patrick’s Day. (Remember ‘expenses incurred by our Members will be made publicly available…’ )

Answer:

‘It is not possible to extrapolate the costs relating specifically to attending the events in the White House on St Patrick’s Day.’

Erm, when I go on holiday I like to keep an eye on my spending money. Why is it impossible for OFMDFM to do the same thing?

Doesn’t rooting out waste and making expenses publicly availabile require the extrapolation of costs? Wouldn’t it be better for a prestige office like OFMDFM, which is run by the DUP, to demonstrate something of the transparency described in the manifesto?

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THANKS A MILL…

A costly error is revealed by a dynamite, far-sighted question from George Savage (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write).

Check it out – it reads to me like those geniuses in DFP / DARD managed to produce a ‘clerical error’ which deprived DARD of £90 million.

It was in fact two clerical errors. But think about that – £90m wiped off a department’s budget due to whoopsies. If you’re gonna make an error, make it a big one.

According to DFP Minister Sammy Wilson, estimates on spending plans (ie. the budget to be agreed by the Assembly) were submitted in the normal way. Then Supplementary Estimates were issued by DARD – these normally are additional requests for more money. (A brief explanation on that process can be found here.)

So far so good. But DFP kindly supplied DARD with SE templates containing indicative figures – and one figure was, erm, ‘placed in an incorrect row’.

Take it away Sammy:

… DARD did not review or question the misplaced figure, but made compensating adjustments to other associated figures in order to reconcile to an overall total. This was compounded by a second clerical error in the Increase/Decrease in Creditors line. Here, DARD erroneously requested a reduction in the cash requirement which had the result of reducing DARD’s overall cash requirement by £90m.

Astonishing. The answer doesn’t clarify whether DARD ever asked for its £90m back. Ah heck, DFP can just stick its lousy £90m!

Does Gildernew have anything to say on the matter? How on earth do you explain that to the (farming) community of FST during an election?

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BOOKS & CHEQUEBOOKS

Libraries are an oasis of knowledge and a great resource for the local community. It’s always pleasing to see Stormont recognising the excellent work of the noble library and divvying up real funding for these cash-strapped facilities.

So, thanks to George Savage (again??), we know of at least one library that’s done superbly well in recent times. So many happy returns to…erm… the Assembly Library at Stormont!

The Assembly library cost the taxpayer £690k this year, which is up a mere £200k on two years ago.

Jeez, the MLAs must be borrowing a hell of a lot of books, right? Wrong – the costs of lending books are not recorded as it’s no longer a core service of the library. Yet, during this same period the library spent an additional £83k on librarians.

Trebles all round lads!

So what about other libraries in East Belfast? Is the surfeit at Stormont symbolic of huge investment and resources going into libraries across the constituency? Erm.. no. Ballyhackamore, Tullycarnet, Braniel, Woodstock, Ballymacarrett and Gilnahirk are all under threat.

The Age of Austerity, eh? Well, yes if you live anywhere else except Mount Olympus and Stormont Hill.

Still, we’re all in this together – so I’m quite sure community-minded MLAs won’t mind job-seekers and book-lovers flocking to the only East Belfast library so lavishly funded that it can enjoy a stratospheric 25% increase in staffing costs.

PS. Best of luck trying to save those other libraries East Belfast!

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2 responses

21 04 2010
Gonzo

Keep em coming Bob!

3 05 2010
bobballs

ta gonzo! working on it right now…

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