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Question

655. Deputy Pa Daly asked the Minister for Justice if she will account for the €37.6 million underspend within the Justice vote group for 2020 as detailed on page 59 of the Public Service Performance Report 2020. [26010/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I would like to advise the Deputy that the underspend referred to relates to the cumulative position for five of the six votes in the Justice Vote Group, excluding An Garda Síochána, and relates to gross expenditure. For the most part, the underspend relates to work on capital projects impacted by Covid 19 restrictions, and hence more of the cost than originally envisaged falling due in 2021 and later years. 
The Justice Vote accounts for €18.75 million of the underspend. This is directly related to the Forensic Science Ireland laboratory project. The expenditure of circa €16 million in 2021 was significantly less than the available budget, as the Covid 19 restrictions came into place very shortly after the commencement of the main construction works in March 2020.  
A carryover to 2021 of €3.9 million from the underspend was  provided under the capital carryover provisions, bringing the total budget for the project to just under €55 million in 2021. Despite the Covid 19 restrictions, the project is making good progress and is due to be completed in the third quarter of 2022.
The Prisons and Courts Votes had underspends of almost €7 million and €6.55 million respectively, and were mainly related to the timing of payments in relation to capital projects,  which will now be incurred in 2021. It was possible to carryover a large proportion of this underspend in additional capital funding for 2021; almost €5.5 million in the case of Prisons and circa €4.9 million in Courts.
The remainder of the underspend relates to the Data Protection Commission Vote, €4.7 million which is due in part to slower than expected take on of additional staff, due to the requirement to move recruitment completely online during 2020.
There was an underspend of €600,000 in respect of the Policing Authority Vote, largely arising from less expenditure than expected on non-pay costs mainly due to the impact of Covid 19.