Friday 18 January 2019

Report on President's €317,000 allowance to be published

Presidential seal of approval: RTÉ’s ‘Sunday Miscellany’ radio programme celebrated 50 years of broadcasting yesterday. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were shown through programme archives by executive producer Clíodhna Ní Anluain. PHOTO: KINLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Presidential seal of approval: RTÉ’s ‘Sunday Miscellany’ radio programme celebrated 50 years of broadcasting yesterday. President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were shown through programme archives by executive producer Clíodhna Ní Anluain. PHOTO: KINLAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A highly anticipated report on Áras an Uachtaráin spending is to be published this week.

The issue of presidential spending became a key election concern when it emerged that a €317,000 allowance to the Office of the President has not been subject to audit.

Details of the allowance were discussed by the Dáil's powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) ahead of the election and was seized on by challengers to Michael D Higgins.

The allowance is used to cover expenses that are not covered in the budget for the Office of the President, including costs related to events in the Áras such as State dinners.

Other questions about spending including the President's use of the Government jet also dominated the debate.

During the campaign Mr Higgins pledged to publish details of the spending in a report on the activities of the Áras, but declined to do so before polling day as he did not want to appear to be politicising the office of the President.

It had been widely expected that the report would be published by the end of November.

However, a spokesperson for the President told a Sunday newspaper the report would be published this week once translation and design of the document have been finalised.

The spokesman pointed out that this is the first time in 80 years such a report will be published.

It is expected that the report will outline various activities and events held at the Áras throughout Mr Higgins's first term in office as well as details about spending since he was first elected President in November 2011.

Work was undertaken following the inauguration of Mr Higgins for a second term to put in place procedures for the report. An audit committee was also put in place.

An Áras spokesperson could not be reached for comment last night.

However, defending the delay in publishing the details, an Áras spokesman previously told the Irish Independent "obviously it takes some time and care to make changes to an arrangement that has been in place since 1938, in a way that meets public expectations while also protecting the constitutional independence of the office of the President".

However, the Áras has declined repeatedly to confirm what the report will contain and the form it will take.

During the recent campaign various candidates raised the issue of spending during the debates.

Mr Higgins repeatedly defended the accounting processes in place at the Áras and insisted robust procedures were in place to ensure expenses were vouched.

"Every single euro has been properly spent and every single euro will be accounted for," he said during the campaign.

Irish Independent

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