As part of the PAC’s investigation into Section 38 & Section 39 Agencies, Rehab Group was in front of the committee to discuss how it allocates the circa 80 million it receives from the public purse.
As part of my questioning I focussed on the 4 million received from the Department of Justice under the Charitable Lotteries Scheme. This is a grant that is paid to Rehab as match funding for their scratch card sales throughout the country.
A few points worth noting:
- Rehab make practically no money from running this scheme – the euro you pay for a scratch card does not make its way back to Rehab
- The more cards that Rehab sells, the more money it gets from the Department
- There is a question mark over how Rehab calculates its sales in my opinion as it counts not what it sells to newsagents at a discount price but what the newsagents sell to customers
- The money it receives from Justice is not meant to be used for administrative purposes, but it has been in the past (meaning public money was subventing private money)
- Recommendations from an internal audit by Justice of the grant scheme were not properly addressed, and it appears that this may be due to an error on the part of the Department
- The grant scheme is in the process of being wound down by Justice and there is a point of dispute between Rehab and the Department related to this
Revenue in the PAC
Revenue came before the Public Accounts Committee to discuss a number of issues. Foremost in the Committee’s review of their accounts was the administration and collection of the Local Property Tax. Revenue has published a detailed analysis of the collection of this tax – you can read this analysis here.
As well as discussing this, I also took the opportunity to question Revenue on the distribution of the tax burden, assessing correct distribution models, VAT, CGT and Revenue’s relationship with the Department of Finance.
Further to this, I also received endorsement from the C&AG and the Chairman of the Revenue Commission for the publication by the government of an official tax transparency calculator (you might recall that I previously published my own tax transparency calculator on this website last October – check it out here).
You can watch my questioning of Revenue here.
PAC visit to NAMA
Prior to our discussion with Revenue, I raised the matter of the PAC sub-committee on NAMA in relation to the 2013 NAMA Board internal review. We learned that the C&AG has completed his first triennial report under the establishing legislation and this draft is currently undergoing review. The sub-committee is to meet in the next fortnight, but prior to that we will be visiting NAMA’s offices for an on-site meeting.
Watch the exchange here:
The Roads Bill 2014 is before the Dáil. It merges the National Roads Authority with the Railway Procurement Agency and makes provision for updating previous roads Acts. During my contribution to the debate, I raised the following issues:
-The importance of reducing the number of state agencies and the size of government generally
- Focussing on light rail as the future for Dublin transport
-The importance of achieving efficiencies in merging the two agencies
- The necessity of first-rate communications to visitors during the construction of Luas Cross City
- The possibility of using the East Link Toll to expand DublinBikes south of the canal
- The importance of introducing the relevant regulations as per my Smarter Transport Bill 2011
Click here to watch.
During statements on flooding, which have been taking place in the Dáil over the past number of weeks, I have used the opportunity to raise the following:
- The commendable work done by Minister Hayes in expediting the building of flood defences
- The Minister’s engagement with local communities in Dublin Bay South following the extreme flooding of October 2011
- The need to ensure that money and resources already committed to building flood defences along the Dodder are maintained
- Problems with the Insurance Industry in agreeing a communication management platform with the OPW
- The necessity to build national strategic flood defences that would protect Dublin Bay and the Liffey, and to prioritise this over local concerns
- The urgency in upgrading the Pembroke-Rathmines drainage system and the need to get a time-bound commitment from Irish Water in this regard.
Click here to watch my speech.
In the Dáil this week I raised the issue of spending on roads – giving more responsibility and discretionary powers to local authorities – with Minister Leo Varadkar. I also made the point, with which he agreed, that the government’s initial commitment to allocate 80% of local property taxes raised in a given local authority area, to that area, be reinstated for 2015 and in such a way that it cannot be reversed.
Update: Hugo MacNeill, former Irish and Lions international, has been selected to Chair the Working Group. An excellent choice in my opinion. Scroll down to watch our debate in the Dáil today.
Tomorrow Ministers Varadkar and Ring will announce the person to chair the Working Group in preparation for Ireland’s proposed bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023.
The Working Group is made up of a number of representative bodies and key stakeholders in the bid.
Today we had the opportunity to question Minister Ring further on the current developments following meetings with ministerial counterparts in the North and the establishment of the Working Group. The Working Group will hold its first meeting on Tuesday 25th February.
Scroll down to watch our debate in the Dáil today.
A permanent school in the former Garda station on Harcourt Terrace? – click here.
Minister Reilly’s efforts to keep private health insurance affordable – click here.
Property tax adjustment by local authorities & Publishing decisions made in the public interest by the Financial Regulator – click here.
Numbers working illegally in Ireland & Minister Shatter’s views on amnesties for some of those in the asylum system – click here.
Incentivising re-training in key sectors like technology – click here.
Cigarette seizures in 2013, excise returns since 2012 & tax exemptions on activities that promote a healthy lifestyle – click here.
Exemption from tolls for electric vehicles & a congestion charge for the city centre? – click here.
The effect of the new building control regulations on self builders – click here.
Timeframes that Gardaí can hold information on an arrest that didn’t lead to conviction – click here.
Differences in salary scales for civil servants recruited in 2010 vs. 2011 – click here.
A number of times over the past twelve months I have raised the issue of peer-to-peer financing in the Dáil, most recently when speaking on the dissolution of county enterprises (you can watch here).
Today, LinkedFinance were in the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs to make a presentation on what they do and the current state of the Irish peer-to-peer financing market.
You can watch my questioning and contribution here.
What is Peer-to-Peer Financing?
Peer-to-peer lending is an alternative financing model to bank lending, where a high number of small lenders lend start-up or expansion capital to small business on-line. Individual lenders typically finance €100-€200 of a €30,000 loan, competing over rates of return in an auction-style market place. The borrower then chooses the preferred rate. The peer-to-peer facilitator manages the market, manages the blended rate, and manages the monthly direct debit payments to the lenders. The borrower gets a low rate loan, the lender gets high interest on their savings. The default rate is lower than 1%.
In 2013, 10% of lending to SMEs in the UK was through peer-to-peer financing. The UK government provides tax relief for those lending this way, as well as a £20million government investment in successful auctions.
LinkedFinance is a peer-to-peer financing platform; originally an Enterprise Ireland High-Potential Start-Up. As of January 2014 they have already helped 51 Irish SMEs to raise an average of €28,000 each and create 150 new jobs.
Minister Richard Bruton has published his legislation dissolving the City and County Enterprise Boards ahead of new enterprise structures being put in place for SMEs. I spoke on the Bill and directed my comments towards the following areas:
- The Action Plan for Jobs 2014 and the need for tangible supports for Peer-to-Peer financing
- Making it easier for businesses to navigate through red tape using a One Stop Shop model
- The burden of charges on local businesses – the need to move to a new commercial rates system – the need to reduce taxes on employment
- The importance of treating Dublin differently when devising SME strategies given its importance to the economy (and whether or not the Dublin City Enterprise Board should be moved into Dublin City Council)
Click here to watch my contribution.