Irish News

Saturday 2 August 2014

Radical cuts to expenses on cards for TDs, senators

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 16/11/2012|05:00

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RADICAL reductions and changes to politicians' expenses are proposed in an internal report being considered by TDs.

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It says all expenses should be receipted, Independents should be stripped of their €40,000 leader's allowance and extra payments to some deputies, such as whips, should be reduced or scrapped.

The draft report is being considered by the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

It 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.

But it is understood a consensus has emerged among PAC members that TDs and senators must take cuts in the Budget if workers in the public sector are seeing their allowances reduced.

The draft report was drawn up by the clerk of the PAC, Ted McEnery, along with an external consultant.

It 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, obtained by the Irish Independent, says the PAC "is concerned at the level of unvouched payments" given to TDs, senators and ministers.

Over €6m was paid to TDs and senators in unvouched expenses last year, and TDs are paid expenses in two strands, the Public Representation Allowance (PRA) and the Travel and Accommodation Allowance (TAA).

The TAA covers the costs of travel to and from Leinster House, accommodation if needed and constituency travel. It is unvouched.

The PRA covers areas such as office rent, rates, utilities, insurance, cleaning, leaflets and computer costs.

Under the PRA, TDs and senators can opt for vouched or unvouched expenses, with a maximum of €12,000 for ministers, €15,000 for TDs and €9,250 for senators. Those on the vouched system get €20,000, €25,700 and €15,000.

Almost three-quarters of backbench TDs use the vouched system. In contrast, the majority of senators – 44 out of 60 – pick the unvouched system.

The report says: "It is the committee's view that all payments should be vouched notwithstanding the fact that the overall cost of allowances may increase if members, who can claim a higher level of expenses under the vouched regime, are forced to submit receipts and to be subject to audit."

Scrapped

The leader's allowance – which is used to fund party activity – cost €7.2m last year.

It also says the leader's allowance paid annually to Independent TDs and senators, worth €39,437 and €23,112 respectively, should be scrapped.

If retention of the payment is justified, then it should be fully audited, the report adds.

It also recommends:

• Politicians' expenses should be set independently, and not by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

• A €9,500 annual allowance paid to members of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission should be stopped "unless there is a substantive body of evidence that supports continued payment".

• An extra €10,000 allowance paid to committee chairmen, as well as allowances for party whips, should also be reviewed, and possibly stopped.

• Senior and junior ministers should have the money given to them to hire additional secretaries reduced, since they have constituency offices in their departments.

• An independent review of all political expenses.

• Changing the system of expenses so TDs cannot get paid expenses for when the Dail isn't sitting, such as in August.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said he fully supported the publication of "every cent" of the individual salaries and expenses paid to politicians.

"I think that's the only way you get over these things is to be upfront about it," he said.

Irish Independent

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