OVER 200m drawn down from dormant bank accounts ? as part of a radical government policy to channel unused money into a programme to alleviate poverty and disadvantage in the community ? is sitting idle in a state deposit account, some 14 months after the appointment of the Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board.
The board has been unable to give out any money to good causes, and charities, contacting the government to seek funds under the scheme, have been told that applications are not currently being accepted and that money is unlikely to be distributed at any time this year.
The 'dormant' nature of the Dormant Accounts fund is an embarrassment to the government and is likely to be discussed at the next cabinet meeting. A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance confirmed that the issue "is being looked at by the government".
Confirming that no money had yet been distributed by the fund, the spokeswoman said that the proper administrative arrangements needed to be put in place and that the administrative burden proved bigger than expected, not least because of the enormous amount of money involved.
It had not been envisaged that so much money would be raised under the scheme and it was essential that there was proper accountability and that the money was distributed in an entirely correct manner, said the spokeswoman.
It is understood that the government will examine whether the original disbursement arrangements are "still appropriate in the light of the sums involved".
However, the delay involved is proving frustrating to community groups and charities anxious to avail of the large sums of money potentially available under the scheme.
There will also be some puzzlement at government expressions of surprise at the amounts being raised, given that original Department of Finance estimates put the cumulative value of dormant accounts at 178m.
However, in mitigation, the actual value of the accounts turned out to be 400m, with half of the value of those accounts re-activated after a public information campaign.
The spokeswoman also explained that the process of drawing down money from dormant bank accounts had only concluded last April. Of the current 200m on deposit, it was hoped that 30m would be given out in its first year of operation covering 2003/2004, she said.
The idea of raising money from dormant accounts came from the Dirt inquiry and was enthusiastically adopted by the government as a means of diverting money that had been sitting in bank and building society accounts for 15 years or more, to "alleviate economic, social, educational or physical disadvantage in the community".
A Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Board was set up by the government in June of last year to oversee the programme.