Tuesday 10 December 2019

TDs claim an average of €147,000 in this Dail's lifetime

Irish Independent show the payments have totalled €24.4m since March 2011
Irish Independent show the payments have totalled €24.4m since March 2011
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

TDS have pocketed an average of €147,000 in expenses and allowance payments each since the last General Election, but only one in 10 of them are asked to provide receipts.

The cash - which TDs receive on top of their €87,258-a-year basic salaries - is largely tax free. Receiving the payments is optional, yet only one member of the Dail, Labour's Eamonn Maloney, does not claim expenses - and he admits to being criticised by colleagues over his stance.

Records examined by the Irish Independent show the payments have totalled €24.4m since March 2011, with just over €600,000 of that total being subject to tax. The money is paid to cover travel, accommodation, office costs and additional responsibilities, such as chairing committees or acting as a party whip.

Since the start of the year, TDs have had to vouch for all their expenses. But just 10pc of TDs are being asked to produce receipts to back up expenses claims as part of random audits.

The records show many TDs did not spend all they had claimed, with €525,000 having to be paid back in the same period.

They also reveal almost €2.3m has been claimed by TDs for the month of August over the past four years, even though there were no Dail sittings.

Under the expenses and allowances system, TDs can choose not to receive payments.

Read more: PAC gets complaint about Bertie Ahern's expenses

Labour’s Eamonn Maloney: Only TD to claim no expenses
Labour’s Eamonn Maloney: Only TD to claim no expenses

Dublin South West TD Maloney, who has never lodged an expenses claim, said he had taken the stance "as a matter of principle" because he felt TDs were already well paid.

"I took the decision on entering the Dail, with the climate we were in with so many people

unemployed,” he told the Irish Independent.

“I had people voting for me who were living on €188-a-week and I myself had just come off the dole.”

Mr Maloney said he had thought other TDs would follow his example.

However, instead he admitted he had gotten “some flak” from other TDs and that his stance was “still a bone of contention with some people”.

The highest claiming politician since the last General Election was Fianna Fail Cork North-West TD Michael Moynihan, who has received just over €232,000.

Distance

His claim was higher than others because of the distance of his base from the Dail and the fact he received an additional allowance for acting as an assistant whip.

“You are compensated based on where you live. They have cut it back drastically over the last seven or eight years in line with everything else that has been reduced.

“I don’t think there is a comment that I can make on it,” said Mr Moynihan.

The current expenses system was introduced by the late former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in 2010 and it replaced a myriad of expenses payments TDs used to claim.

Under the new system these were whittled down to two payments which make up what is called the parliamentary standard allowance (PSA), which is tax free.

The first part of this is a travel and accommodation allowance, which is worked out based on where in the country a TD lives.

TDs living in Dublin can claim €9,000 a year and sums go up in bands as the distance from the capital increases.

The highest rate, band 12, for TDs living 360km or more from the Dail, is €34,065-a-year.

Read more: Allowances system is 'still a very provocative subject'

Members of the Dail must attend a minimum of 120 days annually to receive the full payment.

The second part of the payment is called the public representative allowance, which can be used to pay rent on offices, other office costs, the hiring of rooms for clinics and advertising costs.

The Oireachtas said at least 10pc of members may be chosen for an audit of this allowance each year.

The last published audit report, conducted by Mazars for 2012, stated 10pc of members were selected at random.

Of these, five Oireachtas members were unable to provide sufficient receipts or relevant documentation for spending and a total of €4,992 was refunded.

The latest audit, for 2013, is expected to be published shortly.

In addition to the PSA, 28 TDs are eligible to receive allowances for taking on additional duties. All of these allowances are subject to tax.

Members of the Oireachtas Commission, whose function it is to run Leinster House, are entitled to an annual payment of €8,740-a-year.

Chairpersons of Oireachtas committees are also entitled to claim the same amount.

There are also allowances for party whips and assistant whips, which vary in size.

The additional duty allowances have amounted to €607,500 since the last General Election.

Cabinet ministers, junior ministers, the Ceann Comhairle and the Leas Ceann Comhairle generally had lower expenses under the PSA system because they claim their travel expenses from their individual departments.

The figures show that the average amount in expenses and allowances payment claimed by Fine Gael TDs since March 2011 was €142,334.

The average for TDs in their coalition partner Labour was €113,828.

Meanwhile, the average for Fianna Fail TDs was €188,846, a figure skewed by the party’s lack of representation in Dublin.

The average for Sinn Fein TDs, two thirds of whom are based outside of Dublin, was €175,416.

Independents averaged claims of €143,672 each in the same period.

Houses of the Oireachtas head of communications Mark Mulqueen said it was important that the public had an appreciation of the costs of running a parliamentary democracy and that the issue was not simplified.

Irish Independent

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