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Friday 23 March 2018

Enda has €1,000 a month in unvouched expenses


TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is personally making €1,000 claims in unvouched expenses for his constituency office even though the cost of its operation is already being funded by the taxpayer.

Records lodged with the Houses of the Oireachtas show that Mr Kenny, who receives an annual salary of €200,000, has submitted claims for the Public Representation Allowance (PRA) given to ministers and ministers of state on five occasions, in April, May, July, September and October, since taking up office last March.

Mr Kenny's decision to claim for the PRA -- which covers constituency operation costs such as rent, utility bills, stationery etc -- is unusual when one considers the response he gave to questions in the Dail only last October on the matter of his Castlebar office.

In providing a breakdown of the approximate €134,000 it had cost to support his constituency office in his first 100 days in office, Mr Kenny highlighted several items of expenditure that the PRA is intended to cover.

"This [€134,000] comprises salary costs of €122,884, postal and telecommunications costs of €1,544, office equipment and supplies costing €8,320 and travel and subsistence costs of approximately €1,000," Mr Kenny said.

Asked by the Sunday Independent last night for what purpose Mr Kenny had been claiming the €1,000 PRA, Government Press Secretary Feargal Purcell said: "Any expenses the Taoiseach would be applying for and be granted would be for the use of and operation of his constituency office and his political operation. He obviously has to continue to operate as an elected TD."

When it was pointed out to him that Mr Kenny's constituency office was already being funded by the taxpayer, and that Mr Kenny had given information to the Dail to that effect last October, Mr Purcell said: "The answer to your question is that the spending would have been incurred on office expenses."

In an effort to clarify matters further, Mr Purcell contacted the Sunday Independent subsequently to point out that Mr Kenny had decided "in the last number of weeks" to submit vouched expenses in 2012 as opposed to the unvouched expenses he currently claims.

Mr Purcell stressed that Mr Kenny's decision to make the transition to vouched expenses claims was an option available to all members of the Oireachtas.

Mr Kenny's €1,000 PRA unvouched expense claims are, however, a mere drop in the ocean when viewed in the overall context of the €574,000 annual cost to the taxpayer of running his private and constituency offices, which employ 11 staff between them.

That figure of €574,000 pales, however, when compared to the cost of the eight-strong team of special advisers employed by Mr Kenny's department -- which costs the taxpayer a total of €841,018 a year in salaries.

Quite apart from the €200,000 salary he receives and the costly support team available to him, Mr Kenny is also entitled by virtue of his position as Fine Gael leader to make use of the parliamentary party leader's allowance.

Under the rules laid down by the Standards in Public Office Commission, leaders of political parties in the Dail are permitted to recoup personal expenditure incurred from their official party function.

Sunday Independent

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