independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Ivor Callely refuses to pay back €6k he was overpaid in expenses

FORMER government minister Ivor Callely was overpaid almost €6,000 in mileage expenses -- but has refused to pay back the money, the Irish Independent has learnt.

The ex- Fianna Fail TD and senator claimed mileage expenses at a higher rate than he was entitled to in 2004 and also claimed mileage expenses twice for the same month in 2005, according to the Department of Transport.

The money was paid into Mr Callely's bank account because of errors within the department -- but these blunders were only discovered in 2010.

Documents obtained by the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information rules reveal how officials at the department -- where Mr Callely served as junior minister in 2004 and 2005 -- subsequently spent two years chasing him for the return of the cash.

Despite several letters being issued to Mr Callely and a meeting with officials in Leinster House, the expenses payments were not returned.

Frustrated officials subsequently sought advice from Attorney General Maire Whelan on how to deal with the issue, but were told there was no way to legally oblige Mr Callely to hand back the money.

Mr Callely was not at his Dublin home yesterday when contacted for comment. His wife Jennifer said he was in Cork but he did not answer his mobile phone or return calls for comment. The row over the unreturned expenses is the latest in a series of expenses controversies which have dogged Mr Callely in recent years.

In 2010, Clontarf-based Mr Callely was temporarily suspended following a Seanad committee inquiry into €80,000 in expenses he claimed for travelling to Leinster House from his holiday home in west Cork. He subsequently successfully appealed against the committee's findings in the High Court.

Mr Callely was also questioned by gardai earlier this year over the alleged use of bogus invoices to claim mobile phone expenses.

Records reveal how in 2010 department officials discovered a number of errors while carrying out a review of expenses paid to the former junior minister during the mid-2000s.

The review found Mr Callely claimed mileage expenses for April 2005 on two separate occasions, resulting in an overpayment of €3,257. Officials also found that in 2004 Mr Callely had claimed for 4,000 miles travelling to various meetings at a rate he was not entitled to.

Under Department of Finance rules, Mr Callely was entitled to be paid up to 4,000 miles per year at the highest mileage rate of €1.39 per mile, and a lower rate of 65c for every mile after that.

But officials discovered Mr Callely had already been paid for 4,000 miles while serving as junior health minister earlier that year.

Therefore, he was not entitled to the higher rate on his Department of Transport miles that year that he claimed, and received. This resulted in an additional overpayment of €2,981 to Mr Callely.

Proceedings

Mr Callely was asked to make proposals for repayment on a goodwill basis "as we would do with any other employee", according to an internal department memo.

In a briefing document prepared for the Attorney General's office, an official wrote: "In response to our letters, Mr Callely initially sought further information. He subsequently said that due to the need to devote his energy to other proceedings he was not in a position to deal with this issue."

A spokesman for the Revenue Commissioners said an overpayment for mileage above the 4,000 mile limit would be liable for tax at the higher rate.

Irish Independent

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