Sunday 20 January 2019

PAC hears details of €317k allowance on top of Presidential salary - without audit

  • Office of the President receives payment of €317,000 annually - without audit
  • Comptroller and Auditor General said payment is 'an allowance' that it has no oversight of and it does not audit
  • 'It is an allowance, it is not a salary' - Comptroller and Auditor General
Aras an Uachtarain, home of the Irish President (Niall Carson/PA)
Aras an Uachtarain, home of the Irish President (Niall Carson/PA)

Wayne O’Connor

The office of the President of Ireland receives a payment of €317,000 annually on top of the salary, it has emerged.

The Comptroller and Auditor General said the payment is "an allowance" that it has no oversight of and it does not audit.

The Government also has no role in auditing the annual payment made on top of his salary.

A sitting president is entitled to an annual salary of €325,000 but Mr Higgins wrote to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform shortly after assuming office in 2011 asking this payment be reduced to €250,000.

Details of the additional €317,000 allowance emerged today at an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee hearing seeking clarity on presidential spending.

Ireland’s highest ranking civil servant, Martin Fraser, and the Comptroller and Audit General Seamus McCarthy appeared at the hearing to answer questions on spending at the presidential office.

Mr Fraser is the Secretary General at the Department of An Taosieach and the accounting officer for Áras an Uachtaráin.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc McSharry asked Mr Fraser and Mr McCarthy about the additional allowance.

"It is an allowance, it is not a salary," said Mr McCarthy.

"I don’t audit that," he added.

The payment was introduced in 1998 under a statutory instrument. The figure was then set at €317,000 and it has not changed since.

"It doesn’t prescribe what it is used for other than it is a payment made to the president."

Mr Fraser confirmed he also does not audit the payment or how it is used but said; "I presume the Áras has procedures around it."

A spokesman for Áras an Uachtaráin said the allowance is to cover additional presidential expenses.

In a statement to Independent.ie, he said the direct costs of the Office of the President in 2017 were €3.6m and 76pc of these costs related to salary costs and bonuses for centurians.

"The allowance payable from Central Fund referred is provided for in the Presidential Establishment Act 1938 and has been available to all Presidents in the last 80 years. The amount has not changed since 1998," said the spokesman.

"This allowance is used to meet additional costs not covered elsewhere in the President’s Vote, for instance costs related to hospitality for the 20,000 people that visit Áras an Uachtaráin each year, State Dinners for visiting Heads of State and for the hundreds of events hosted by the President at Áras an Uachtaráin each year."

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