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Friday 17 January 2020

TDs must 'clock-in' if they want to clock up expenses

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

Senators and TDs will have to 'clock in' if they want to draw a new expenses allowance worth up to €32,859 a year.

The move comes after the axe was wielded on their lucrative expenses regimes with the introduction of audits, flat payments and a sign-in system.

The new expenses regime is aimed at shaving millions off the €12m annual Oireachtas members' expenses bill.

Significantly, one in 10 TDs will be subjected to an audit once they claim over €15,000 for their office and constituency expenses.

They will have to retain all receipts and vouchers for inspection, according to details of the new regime published last night by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

The expenses overhaul follows months of controversy over the expenses gravy train, which shone the spotlight on former Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue, the travel expenses of ministers and the day-to-day expenses of TDs and senators.


Overall, the myriad expenses and allowances will now be replaced by two new payments to cover all expenses.

The new changes are on top of the €2.75m -- almost €17,000 per TD -- already cut from salaries and expenses over the last 18 months.

Their overall earnings have already dropped by about 13pc to an average of €112,000 after the economic downturn brought the Dail gravy train to a grinding halt.

Payment of the travel and accommodation allowance -- which will not require TDs and senators to produce receipts -- will be verified by attendance at Leinster House, including attendance at committees.

The Oireachtas Commission has agreed on a system using either a swipe card or a sign-in register. TDs and senators will have to attend 120 of the requisite 150 days for full payment.

Agreement on this came after a furious reaction among some Fianna Fail backbenchers who believed they were being treated like "factory workers".

Despite a 10pc cut to expenses last year and a 25pc cut to the mileage rate, the average expenses claim by a TD costs the taxpayer about €50,000 every year. A senator averages slightly less at about €42,000.

But Mr Lenihan pledged the new system would provide for a more transparent and verifiable parliamentary allowance system.

Irish Independent

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