Monday 18 December 2017

Howlin silent on plan to tackle lack of political transparency

Cormac McQuinn and Michael Brennan

PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin was last night unable to say how he plans to tackle the lack of transparency surrounding how political parties spend the €13m a year they receive from the taxpayer.

An investigation published in yesterday's Irish Independent exposed how parties can do almost anything they want with the funding because archaic regulations do not require them to provide invoices or receipts.

Mr Howlin has announced a review into how parties account for the spending. However, he has been short on detail regarding what measures he was looking to take.

His spokeswoman last night refused to be drawn on whether the reforms would include a requirement that parties include their receipts when submitting expenditure statements to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

And she couldn't provide a timescale for when the review of the current system will be completed, or when any reforms will ultimately be introduced.

The Irish Independent investigation revealed how almost €89m was distributed to political parties between 2004 and 2010, with little transparency on how the cash has been spent.

The size of the sums given to each party depends on their proportion of first preference votes in the previous election and the number of TDs and senators they have.

One payment that emerged in the examination of the Fine Gael party's leaders' allowance expenditure statements is a yearly salary top-up of almost €50,000 paid to Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he was leader of the opposition.

The payment, which Fine Gael said is taxable and non-pensionable, was given to Mr Kenny until he became Taoiseach last year.

Irish Independent

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