So there’s been a little addendum to the sudden, and last minute, reappearance of £72 million in funding in the Department of Education just before the minister was expected to explain his spending patterns to the Finance Minister.
It seems the Finance Minister is not best pleased [Ahem, well we did suggest he mightn’t be – Ed] On the Radio Ulster lunchtime news bulletin on Friday, Martina Purdy noted this little number (which seems not to have made it to the BBCNI New website):
The Finance and Education ministers have clashed over plans to reform the budget process at Stormont. Sammy Wilson wants to make it easier to track where money is spent – but John O’Dowd is thought to be concerned about losing flexibility on spending. This report from our political correspondent Martina Purdy.
Sammy Wilson has been trying since March 9th to get his paper on financial process discussed at the Executive after passing it to ministers. But the Education department had been blocking the discussion – which Mr Wilson was finally able to raise yesterday under any other business. The finance minister has been under pressure from his committee frustrated at the lack of clarity and transparency in the budget process.
One issue is a line in the budget which shows nearly £2 billion going to school spending this year – with no breakdown on where the money is going. John O’Dowd is believed to have indicated he has no problem with transparency. The concern is that he does not want to lose the power to shift funds within the schools budget.
Later the Minister released a statement saying, ‘Executive meetings are confidential and the media should be extremely wary of politically motivated leaks’. Well, quite. Except this leak comes with a name and a fair amount of telling detail.
Most obviously, if you don’t have to reveal where the money was originally allocated then you don’t have to explain why so much cash apparently went missing for so long. Nor why you only ‘found out’ a few weeks before the ‘end of term’.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty