Tuesday 20 March 2018

TDs free to refuse public-funded tablet computers

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TDs will be given the option of refusing a free tablet computer as controversy rages over whether public money should be spent on the latest technology for politicians.

It has emerged that the Leinster House authorities will be seeking quotes from three suppliers to get the cheapest possible tablet -- such as an Apple iPad or a Samsung Galaxy.

The new computers are due to be delivered to them in time for Christmas, but TDs are conscious of the potential public backlash. One said privately that it looked a "bit rich" to be getting tablet computers, even though this would save money on printing costs.

Fine Gael Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan and Labour Dublin South West TD Eamonn Maloney have both called on TDs to pay for tablet computers themselves if they want them.

And the Oireachtas Commission, which is in charge of Leinster House, has confirmed that individual TDs and senators will have the option of turning down a new tablet computer. TDs will also have to return the tablets if they lose their seats.

A spokesman confirmed that the final order has not yet gone in. So far, just three of the 166 TDs have declared that they are going to turn down the free tablet computers.

Mr Maloney is among those who wrote a letter to Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, the head of the Oireachtas Commission, to make his views known.

He pointed out that TDs were already supplied with three personal computers -- one for their own use, one for their secretary and one for their parliamentary assistant.

If more TDs and senators decline the offer of a tablet from the Oireachtas Commission, it will reduce the overall cost. But the Oireachtas Commission spokesman pointed out that the individual price per tablet would be based on the number ordered.

The Oireachtas Commission said that the introduction of tablet computers would allow it to cut down on its printing bill. The purchase of the tablet computers will take place under a "framework agreement" set up by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last month.

The Oireachtas Commission and all other public bodies will have to get a quote from the three selected suppliers and then decide who to buy from.

No decision has yet been made on whether TDs will be given iPads or another type of tablet computer.

Irish Independent

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