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Message is clear on expenses

IN the higher echelons of the civil service they have a new three-letter word to go along with the traditional four-letter one – Pac. The Public Accounts Committee and its combative chairman, John McGuinness TD, has become something of a biting gnat on the hide of government.

Its latest report may have Mr McGuinness's colleagues joining the mandarins in fits of apoplexy. The Report on Public Sector Allowances says that all expenses should be vouched or verified, including those paid to members of the Oireachtas.

The level and manner of payment of Oireachtas allowances should be determined by an independent authority, it adds for good measure. 'The Punt' will be surprised if any of this actually happens, but a look across the water should be a warning as to the dangers of doing nothing.

There, a clear division has emerged between MPs and the public; with the politicians thinking they do not get paid enough for what they do and therefore should have obscure, even secret, expenses and allowances, and the voters thinking that's a disgrace.

Things have not quite reached that stage here, but they are getting closer. Those who put themselves forward to be our rulers have to accept that higher standards must apply to them and not, as is the case with unvouched expenses, lower.

Irish Independent