Saturday 18 January 2020

TDs to clock in at work in expenses overhaul

Aidan O'Connor

TDs and senators agreed last night on a controversial plan to clock in to work at Leinster House as part of a new expenses system.

The Oireachtas Commission signed off on proposals to cut €4m off the €12m annual Oireachtas members' expenses bill.

The new regime will see a myriad of expenses and allowances replaced by two new payments to cover all expenses.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will examine the document and will inform the commission if he accepts all, or some, or some, of their proposals.

But TDs and senators across all parties are still refusing to produce hotel receipts for staying in Dublin while attending Leinster House.

The new system will be backdated to January 1 and extra money claimed by Oireachtas members under the old system will have to be paid back.

Several rural TDs and senators, who stay in property they own in Dublin, argue they would be unable to claim an overnight allowance, despite having to pay a mortgage.

A single allowance will cover constituency office costs and will allow members to claim up to €25,000 every year.

Oireachtas members will have to produce receipts to cover office rent, telephone and all other costs associated with running a constituency clinic.

The proposal also argues for a €2,500 constituency office allowance for senators -- despite senators not representing a constituency. Perks like 1,500 free envelopes every month will be scrapped.

A second allowance will cover constituency travel and mileage to and from the Dail. Overnight accommodation will also be included in the allowance. However, no receipts will have to be produced.

TDs' representatives from all parties have argued producing receipts for hotel overnights would end up costing the taxpayer even more.


Under the new system, the average hotel allowance will be cut from €126 to €109 per night and members will be able to claim a maximum of 145 overnights.

However, it remains unclear whether Mr Lenihan will continue to allow members claim mileage and overnights even when the Dail isn't sitting.

Under the current system, TDs and senators can charge for several one-way journeys from their constituency once the doors of Leinster House are open.

Mr Lenihan has already signalled that a clock-in system will be enforced. The commission has agreed on a system using either a swipecard or a sign-in register.

But agreement on an attendance record only 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.

Irish Independent

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