Thursday 25 December 2014

Finally, TDs must provide receipts but no full reform

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 06/12/2012 | 05:00

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin avoided major changes to the increasingly controversial system of politicians' expenses.

Under new rules, only some payments will have to be vouched for and six-figure salaries for ministers and TDs will be left untouched.

However, severance pay for former ministers is being abolished.

This is when former office-holders are paid a portion of their salary for two years after they leave office as a step-down payment.

Mr Howlin said it is "untenable" to have a system of unvouched expenses, but TDs will only be obliged to produce receipts for items like running their constituency office.

Their travel and accommodation allowance (TAA) will still be unvouched, and the current system, where TDs are paid travel allowances based on how far they live from Leinster House, will remain.

However, changes are being made to the Parliamentary Standard Allowance (PSA), which will be fully receipted. The PSA is used to pay for items such as running a constituency office and research.

TDs could opt for a vouched rate of €15,000 or an unvouched rate of €25,000, but now everyone will have to produce receipts.

However, it is unclear if new bands will be created for this, or if all TDs will automatically be entitled to €25,000 a year.

"It is untenable to have a system of 'unvouched' expenses so I am proposing to abolish the unvouched element," Mr Howlin said.

Mr Howlin also said spending on the PSA will be cut by 10pc.

There are no changes to the TAA, which is paid in bands based on how far a TD lives from Leinster House. It can be worth up to €37,000 a year.

And the party leader's allowance will also be cut by 10pc.

Vouched

But the annual €41,000 leader's allowance given to Independent TDs, with non-party senators getting €23,000, will only be audited, rather than fully vouched.

Mr Howlin also questioned politicians setting their own allowances, such as €10,000 payments to committee chair.

He said a recent report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) "raised a number of issues regarding who should determine Oireachtas expenses".

He has asked the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission for its opinions. President Michael D Higgins's budget will be untouched.

Irish Independent

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