Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated:
“It is a damning indictment on government efficiency and an insult to the people of Northern Ireland that 9 out of 12 Government Departments have yet to publish their individual spending plans which flesh out the detail on the draft Budget agreed by the Executive in December.
“This is essential for two main reasons. First, it is important that the current public consultation is meaningful and not simply a tick-box exercise. Second, it is critical that other organisations which receive their own resources from government have some indication of their forthcoming allocations to allow them in turn to plan ahead.
“There should be no room for excuses from Departments. They have known that a Budget was required for some considerable time, and should have been scenario planning ahead of the draft Budget being formally agreed. If three Departments can publish their own plans within 10 days of the main Budget then the bar is set for others.
“Any failure to publish Departmental budgets immediately will have a direct impact on capital expenditure now, because many projects straddle two financial years. This means Departments may not be able to commence them and could, as a result, end up with underspend as certain projects cannot go forward.
“The Draft Budget is currently out for consultation until 9 February. Already, the proper 12 week window for responses has been curtailed due to the political wrangling and delays within the Executive. There is a very tight timetable for the formal adoption of a Budget and the passage of the first Budget Bill before the start of the next financial year. Notions of extending this consultation period due to meet the slackness of certain Departments are fanciful. It is therefore imperatives that Departments get own with publishing their plans and people have a right to expect no less.”