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Sunday 22 October 2017

Politicians return over €240,000 in unspent allowances

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

TDS and senators gave back more than €240,000 in unspent allowances to the State's coffers last year, new figures have revealed.

Under revamped expenses rules, Oireachtas members can opt to claim either a lower, unvouched flat payment or a higher sum that must be backed up with receipts.

Parliamentary standard allowances include a travel and accommodation allowance based on the distance the person travels to Leinster House from their home, and it also covers expenses such as office and communication costs.

The monies are paid out automatically each month and then at the end of the year any of the monies outside of the unvouched flat payment that cannot be backed up with receipts must be returned.

Last year, ahead of the election, 29 TDs, senators or ministers repaid unspent allowances amounting to just over €21,549. Two members claimed an additional €1,180. After the general election, 62 members of the 31st Dail repaid €219,284 to the state coffers. However, three members claimed an additional €14,730 between them.

Unvouched

The unvouched sum for office and communication expenses that can be claimed varies from €9,250 for a senator, €12,000 for a minister and €15,000 for a TD. If they provide receipts, a senator can claim €15,000, a minister €20,000 and a TD €25,700.

Dublin TDs can claim €12,000 a year for travel and accommodation, while those in band 12, more than 360km from the Dail, can claim €37,850 under the new flat allowance scheme. It replaces the system where TDs were paid mileage and overnight allowance for each trip claimed.

Oireachtas members must be present in Leinster House for a minimum of 120 days a year to receive the travel and accommodation allowance. Some 80 members failed to reach the set number of days before the election and repaid €16,298. After the election, 11 members of the new Government failed to meet their set quota of days and repaid just over €20,000.

Any TDs or senators who get more than the lower unvouched allowance are subject to an audit for the amount they received. The firm Mazars is auditing the allowances.

Prior to the last general election, some 57 members got more than the set unvouched sum. In the post-election period, 119 members may now potentially be audited.

Allowances were cut by 10pc in August 2009.

Irish Independent

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