Replacment of old prison vans leads to service overspend

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Replacment of old prison vans leads to service overspend

Irish Prison Service van at Portlaoise Court.

Taxpayers have picked up the tab for a failure to replace old prison vans and other vehicles which had been in use for a decade and more, and seem to have been a safety risk.

The Irish Prison Services spent more than €2.7 million above what it had planned to on operational services, due mainly to purchases for the prison transport fleet.

The latest published audited accounts reveal that €6.4 million was spent under the operational services sub heading compared with a provision of €3.7 million.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's audit explains the reason for the overrun.

“The excess in expenditure of €2.752 million was due to increased purchases for the prison transport fleet of €1.8 million. An extensive review of the age of the existing fleet was undertaken in 2016 with the decision made to replace a number of vehicles registered prior to 2008, commencing in 2016.

“This replacment continued in 2017 in order to modernise the fleet, reduce health and safety risks associated with older vehicles and to benefit from the reduced running costs of the new models,” said the audit.

The Comptroller and Auditor General also found that the balance of the overspend in the operational services sub-head related to addtional security-related costs and new equiplment for control / restraint and search facilities.

A saving of just over €1 millio n was made in the prisoner services budget. The outurn just over €27.9 million. The saving was made due to economies, efficiences and reduced costs.

Money was also saved in the buildings and equipment category. A saving of nearly €2.2 million was made leading to an outurn of almost €40 million. The saving in capital expenditure mainly arose due to the deferrall of the CCTV enhancement programme pending a review of the procurement process. More than €180,000 was saved in the educational services section due to the delayed reintroduction of professional library services in five prison sites and a lower than expected uptake of some educational courses. Nearly €1.1 million was spent. The cost of compensation overran by nearly €1.3 million. This was due to a higher than expected number of compensation cases falling due for payment in 2017. The vast majority of cases are handled by the State Claims Agency and the Criminal Compensation Tribunal for the Irish Prison Service. The total compensation bill was €4.15 in 2017.

Ex gratia payments totalling €9,985 were paid to cover the cost of five prisoners who died in jail.