Tuesday 25 July 2017

Dempsey fails to record full cost of his US junket

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

UP to half of the cost of Transport Minster Noel Dempsey's St Patrick's week trip to the US has been left out of official records published by his department, the Irish Independent has learned.

Mr Dempsey became the last minister to publish costs related to the annual March exodus when he put figures on his department website on Monday night, six weeks after the rest of his colleagues had disclosed the information.

However, the figures, which totalled €4,835, did not reflect the full amount spent by the minister and his entourage on the seven-day visit to Atlanta and Savannah in Georgia.

They omitted the cost of the minister's private secretary, the only official to accompany him, which would have brought the full sum spent closer to €9,000.

Every other government department included the full costs associated with ministers and their entourages.

After the omission was pointed out, Mr Dempsey's office said in a statement that it wished to clarify that the costs listed on the website related to the minister only.

The full amount spent on the trip was not reflected despite assurances from Mr Dempsey's department last month that the "full and final costs" would be published.

Both Mr Dempsey and his private secretary took business class flights from Dublin to Atlanta, at a cost of €2,773 each. A further €436 was spent flying the minister between Atlanta and Savannah, but no costs were revealed for the same flights by his private secretary.

Similarly, while hotel and care hire costs for the minister were published, no such expenses were listed for the secretary.

The reluctance to publish the full figures was somewhat surprising given that major efforts have been made to cut down on foreign travel costs compared to recent years.

Internal Department of Transport memos revealed that the cheapest hotel and car hire rates were sought throughout the visit in March.

Mr Dempsey stayed in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Atlanta for €125 a night. His room at the De Soto Hilton in Savannah cost €166 a night.

Some 22 ministers travelled abroad for St Patrick's Day this year. The overall cost of the trips was estimated at €230,000, less than half what was spent two years ago.

Irish Independent

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