Purpose and Nature of Appropriations
An appropriation is a statutory authority from Parliament allowing the Crown or an Office of Parliament to incur expenses or capital expenditure.
Neither the Crown nor an Office of Parliament can legally incur any expense or capital expenditure - as those terms are defined in the Public Finance Act 1989 (PFA) - unless it is expressly authorised by or under an Act of Parliament.
Limits Created by Appropriations
Each appropriation is allocated to, and managed as, one of six types of appropriation.
Each appropriation has a defined scope that limits the uses or activities for which the expenses or capital expenditure can be incurred. The scope should be sufficient on its own to establish the nature and extent of the authority to incur expenses or capital expenditure. The wording of the appropriation scope should achieve the balance between being sufficiently precise to act as an effective constraint against non-authorised activities and not so specific that it inadvertently limits activity intended to be authorised.
In most cases an appropriation also limits the amount of expenses or capital expenditure that can be incurred, and the time period within which those expenses or capital expenditure can be incurred.
Aside from the very limited exclusions provided for in the PFA, the amount of expense or capital expenditure authorised by an appropriation is measured in accordance with generally accepted accounting practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Where do I find out what is to be achieved with the resources voted for each appropriation in a Vote?
Answer: In Parts 2-6 for that Vote of the relevant sector volume of the Information Supporting the Estimates [B.5A Vol.1-Vol.10].
Question: If the structure of appropriations in a Vote has changed since last year, how do I find out how the amount being sought for this year for each appropriation relates to what was appropriated last year?
Answer: Part 1.4 of the Information Supporting the Estimates for the Vote concerned should contain a table showing how the structural change impacts on the amount of each of last year's appropriations affected by the change, to provide a comparison for this year. This table should be accompanied by a narrative explanation of the change.