Committee to scrutinise allowances

Thu, Sep 20, 2012, 01:00

All public bodies will be instructed to submit information on the level of allowances paid to staff, the Public Accounts Committee agreed today.

An examination of all allowances will form part of the discussion on public service reform when the PAC meets with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin in early October.

Accounting officers in all public bodies will have to provide details of the extent of allowance payments, their cost, the rate of payment and the date when the payments commenced.

Committee chairman John McGuinness said all allowance payments would be “put under public scrutiny” on a case by case basis in order to “do a very good job for the taxpayer”.

“I accept that in some cases, the term ‘allowance’ is probably inaccurate in that this extra payment should be part of core pay and, where that is the case, the Department should recognise that and revise the pay levels appropriately,” he said.

“In other cases however, the original justification for paying an allowance may no longer apply and we need first of all to identify these historic type payments and secondly to hear from the heads of Departments as to why these allowances should continue to be paid.

“It was this committee that shone a light on the practice of paying up to one year’s salary to medical consultants for untaken rest days. In a report which the PAC will produce in the coming weeks, we will make recommendations that will eliminate that practice.”

Mr Howlin admitted on Tuesday only €3.5 million of the target of €75 million in savings from modifying and scrapping allowances in the public sector had been achieved, and only one allowance out of the total of 1,100 had been abolished.

Opposition spokesmen have described the allowances review as a shambles, and five of the younger Fine Gael backbench TDs outspoken in their criticism of the process, describing it as a failure and a flop.

The PAC made their announcement today following a request in writing from Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy.

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