Politics

Friday 25 July 2014

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin among TDs told to repay expenses

Luke Byrne

Published 20/12/2013|02:30

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Micheal Martin

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin was among five politicians told to repay political expenses that were incorrectly claimed last year, the Irish Independent can reveal.

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The refund followed an independent audit by consultancy firm Mazars into the use by TDs and senators of the Public Representation Allowance (PRA).

The report was based on a small, randomly chosen sample of the members.

Despite just 12 of the TDs and senators who claim the vouched PRA being audited by the firm -- 10pc of the 120 total -- five members were directed to repay a total of €4,992.

The most high-profile of those audited for the period from January to December last year was the Fianna Fail leader, who was asked to refund €188.05 to the Oireachtas Commission.

The report said that Mr Martin had correctly claimed €22,312.95 paid to him from the allowance.

However, he was unable to show adequate documentation for the amount paid back, it said.

"It was a pro-rata error for various bills that I have to pay including the phone bill, electricity bills, which I'm entitled to claim," Mr Martin said last night.

He said that due to the billing dates, a proportion of the bills that he submitted fell outside of the dates for which he was entitled to claim.

Asked about how almost half of the tiny minority of those audited had to repay some expenses, Mr Martin said he wasn't against more extensive auditing.

However, he pointed out that there would be resource issues with extending the audit to all members.

The highest amount repaid was by Mr Martin's party colleague Brian O Domhnaill, a Fianna Fail senator.

Mr O Domhnaill had to pay back €3,434.30 in expenses which he was ineligible to claim. The Oireachtas had paid him €11,565.70 correctly in the period.

The senator could not be contacted for comment last night.

Last month, Mr O Domhnaill took a High Court action to halt an investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission into alleged duplication of expenses claims.

The action relates to an investigation concerning travel and subsistence claims made between 2006 and 2007 when he was a member of Donegal County Council.

FRIDGE

Sinn Fein TD Michael Colreavy claimed €22,517.24 correctly, however he was was required to repay €438.71.

"The main part of it was for invoices that didn't specify Michael Colreavy constituency clinic; we'll be more careful in the future," he said.

"The other part was for a phone bill that extended from December to January, but I couldn't claim for January," he added.

Jonathan O'Brien, also a Sinn Fein TD, repaid €332.07 and claimed €19,214.57 correctly. He could not be contacted.

Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne repaid €598.97, after failing to produce the proper receipts or documentation. She claimed €21,064.42 correctly.

Ms Byrne said that she had submitted all her receipts but a number of items -- an old phone bill, a kettle and a fridge for her staff, and an advert she placed -- were ineligible.

"I couldn't claim for the ad because it didn't have my constituency office on it. I didn't know that at the time," she said.

In Budget 2013, the unvouched allowance was abolished.

Irish Independent

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