Wednesday 26 July 2017

Politicians shouldn't be allowed set TD expenses, urges Dail watchdog

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A POWERFUL Dail committee is expected to recommend that TDs' expenses and allowances should be set by an independent commission and taken entirely out of the hands of politicians.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will publish its report on public sector allowances later today, and will direct most of its criticisms at the system of Oireachtas payments.

The report has been largely unchanged since its contents were first reported in the Irish Independent last week, it is understood.

However, at its final meeting before publishing the report, members of the PAC are understood to have beefed up calls for an independent commission to set their expenses.

The levels are currently set by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, but the report will say: "It is the view of the committee that the level of any expenses or allowances paid to Oireachtas members should be determined entirely independently."

Sources say this could involve independently establishing how much value to put on a TD's work, as well as travel and the cost of running constituency offices.

"It would be benchmarked," one source said. "The only fear is that a commission could increase what we get. It costs a lot to run a constituency office."

The report will be passed to Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, but he does not have to act on its recommendations. However, it is understood Mr Howlin is considering changes to TDs' expenses in the Budget.

The report's other recommendations include making all political expenses vouched, stripping Independents of their €40,000 leader's allowance and reducing or scrapping extra payments to some deputies, such as whips.

The report comes after the PAC spent weeks examining allowances across the public sector, and the committee is eager to get its findings published before the Budget.

The report also says the majority of public sector allowances are core pay, and should be renamed and included in basic pay packets, although it recommends that some should be stopped.

Some generic allowances should, "as part of negotiations around flexibility, become core pay".

A lot of the allowances should be rebranded, it says, and there should be changes to the basic working day.

It is also expected to add: "There is a major job of work to do in order to restructure the public service pay model, however the opportunity now exists to simplify and to ensure that allowances are paid where there is a clear need that has been established."

Irish Independent

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