Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures he has taken in order to reduce the amount of funds being paid to private operators of direct provision accommodation for asylum seekers. [39329/12]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): The Reception & Integration Agency of my Department is responsible for the accommodation of asylum seekers while their application for protection in the State is being processed. Since end 2010, the number of persons availing of direct provision services has reduced from 6,107 person to 4,996 persons at 9 September 2012, a drop of 1,111 persons or 18%. There has been an 8% drop in the number of persons in direct provision in 2012 alone. In line with this decline in demand for direct provision accommodation, RIA has reduced the number of bed spaces in its portfolio. Since the beginning of 2009, RIA has reduced the number of direct provision accommodation centres from 60 to 36.
Due to the exceptionally difficult state of the national finances and in response to the need for all government departments to achieve reductions in all areas of Government spending, the Department of Justice and Equality has urged all spending areas to reduce its spending and to monitor all expenditure closely. RIA is actively engaged in addressing the efficiencies outlined in the Value for Money & Policy Review of the Asylum Seeker Accommodation Programme (VFM) – primarily that of:
- reducing vacant bed capacity to a maximum of 10%
- preparing for a major procurement project in order to “robustly test” the rates obtained.
The Reception & Integration sought and achieved a reduction in its spending by an overall 6% from April to December 2009 (equivalent to 8% over a full year). These savings continued to be implemented throughout 2010, 2011 and to date in 2012 with rate and bed reductions achieved under this exercise instigated wherever possible in furtherance of the VFM and budgetary objectives while at the same time ensuring that high standards of accommodation and services are maintained. RIA has reduced the number of contracted bed spaces across its portfolio from January 2010 to January 2012 by 30% with further reductions in bed spaces to date in 2012.
In relation to the State-owned centres RIA has monitored closely the cost of utilities – in particular, energy costs at State-owned centres. Since de-regulation of the sector, RIA has actively sought out alternative electricity suppliers. The National Procurement Service (NPS – in OPW) recently completed a new round of contracts in this area and RIA engaged with the selected energy provider to transfer its accounts to that new provider (operating under Energia). In 2011, RIA’s expenditure was €69.5m while in 2012, RIA’s budget allocation is €63.5m and it is anticipated that the RIA will operate within this budget allocation.