Wednesday 24 January 2018

110 politicians pulled up on expenses claims

Kenny overstated his nights away from home

Ronald Quinlan and Don Lavery

Members of the Oireachtas have reacted with puzzlement to the latest expenses furore, which was unearthed through the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) by journalist and writer Ken Foxe.

In an FoI, he asked for copies of all letters sent to TDs "querying or disallowing" expenses claimed from 2007 to November 2010.

The documents revealed that the Houses of the Oireachtas contacted 110 politicians regarding attempted over-claims and refused to pay out on the expense claims.

Some TDs and senators were contacted repeatedly -- up to 11 times in the case of one -- regarding expenses that they were not entitled to claim.

These documents also revealed, among other things, that the Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny put in a claim for 30 overnight stays to attend the Dail when he was entitled to just 26.

"There was an error in the application process and it was corrected," a spokesman for Mr Kenny said yesterday.

Accounting for his mistake in claiming for two overnight allowances too many, Fine Gael deputy leader Phil Hogan said: "I'm not aware of the exact details of what you're saying. I haven't got the paperwork in front of me, so it's not possible for me to establish what the reason for that is. I'm out campaigning at the moment."

When asked to explain how he claimed for 30 one-way journeys from Sligo to Dublin to which he was not entitled, outgoing Fianna Fail Sligo North Leitrim TD Eamon Scanlon replied: "I knew I was only going to get paid for the ones I was entitled to be reimbursed for. I did the journeys. I put them in. Whatever I had, I put them in. We were entitled to get paid for so many, and I did the journeys.

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I nearly killed myself going up and down the country."

Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan said: "It just goes to prove that the system actually works. As far as I can recall, that [over claim] was brought to my attention and it was resolved. By the same token, there were occasions when I would have submitted claims that were short of my entitlements and I wouldn't have known about it.

"You might make a claim six months retrospectively and you don't remember unless you have logs of everything. But the system did work and corrected it -- and that's as it should be."

Green Party TD Ciaran Cuffe put his over-claiming down to a simple error.

"Basically, I filled in the form wrong. I looked up at the wall to check the number of days I had been physically present in Leinster House and put it down. It was just an error in filling in the form."

Longford Fianna Fail TD Peter Kelly, meanwhile, seems to have relied on the Houses of the Oireachtas when submitting his expenses claims.

"The issue with that would be that I would go into them (the Houses of the Oireachtas) and I would say, you know; 'What can I claim for?' I'd say I didn't claim for it in the end, because I would have said to the guy in there, 'Don't pay me for anything I'm not entitled to.'"

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris said he had simply miscalculated his own expenses.

"First of all, I was never overpaid for expenses. What happened really is that I had a full attendance. I went in and informed them I had a full attendance and obviously payments were miscalculated and they came back to notify me of that.

"I was never overpaid. I never over-claimed and I would assume that [the issue of errors] applies to a number of people as a consequence of the overnights and the travel."

A spokesperson for Fianna Fail said: "The entire purpose of the system of checking claims before they are made is to find mistakes and make sure that overpayments are not made.

"This is exactly what has been done in these cases. In a very small number of cases, there were errors made."

A spokesman for Fine Gael said: "To the best of our knowledge, any errors that were made have been corrected."

A spokesman for the Labour Party said: "It is quite appropriate that the Oireachtas should scrutinise all such claims to ensure that any such errors are detected and corrected."

Sunday Independent

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