Saturday 25 November 2017

Gilmore says top-up pay 'normal for extra duties' €22,100 paid to Labour leaders

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore last night defended the salary top-up paid to him and his deputy leader while in opposition and said Labour's spending of taxpayer hand-outs has been fully accounted for.

However, the Irish Independent can today show the only records kept of how Labour spent millions of euro in taxpayers' money are vague handwritten forms, with no receipts provided to back up the spending.

Items of expenditure include salaries, travel, subsistence, public relations, entertainment and thousands of euro marked "miscellaneous".

Yesterday, the Irish Independent reported how Mr Gilmore, along with Labour deputy leader Joan Burton, were paid a combined total of €22,100 out of the party leaders' allowance in 2010, in addition to their salaries as TDs of at least €92,000.

An examination of Labour's statements on expenditure of taxpayers' money shows that this payment was included in the €142,000 paid to party leaders and their deputies between 2004 and 2010. And it was found that the sums paid out increased every year up to 2009, before a 5pc cut in 2010.

Former leader Pat Rabbitte and his deputy leader Liz McManus were paid a combined €16,600 in 2004.

This had risen to €23,200 which was paid to Mr Gilmore and Ms Burton by 2009.

Mr Gilmore denied the payment was a salary "top-up", arguing that it was a "normal" payment in recognition of the party leaders' additional duties and responsibilities, while the party was in opposition.

He added: "Political parties get funding from the State. This has been a long-established practice and the funding that is provided to the Labour Party is fully accounted for."

However, while Labour has provided the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) with statements saying how it spent taxpayers' money, the statements are very general, with only vague, handwritten explanations for how the cash was spent.

The party's statements cover spending of €14.5m claimed under Electoral Act Funding and the Party Leaders' Allowance fund, with more than €9m claimed under the latter fund over seven years between 2004 and 2010.

Of this, €5.7m was spent on "salaries and pensions" for party staff and €2.2m was spent on "research". More than €500,000 was spent on "meetings" while "travel and subsistence" accounted for €481,000 in spending. "Rent and rates" came to almost €272,000, a further €222,000 was spent on telephone costs and "heat and light" cost €25,000. Spending of €32,800 was labelled "miscellaneous" and "entertainment" cost the taxpayer €9,500.

The statements were audited by O'Connor & Associates who provided an auditor's report stating "proper accounting records have been kept" and saying that the statement "properly presents the expenditure of the allowance".

Asked about the lack of receipts and invoices, a Labour spokesman said: "In accordance with the requirements of the SIPO Commission, all documentation such as receipts, invoices and payroll information is forwarded to our auditors who then produce our annual accounts. Our audited accounts are published every year."

Irish Independent

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