Cowen tells Callely he must explain expenses in writing

 

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has instructed Ivor Callely to furnish a full explanation to the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad after the Dublin-based Senator claimed overnight and travel expenses from his west Cork property for two years.

Mr Callely, a former TD for Dublin North Central, maintains his Dublin home and constituency office in Clontarf, and both are referred to on his website.

Some months after being nominated to the Seanad in 2007 by then taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Mr Callely began claiming travel and overnight expenses from his house in Kilcrohane, west Cork, which he acquired as a holiday home. In all he claimed some €81,000 in expenses until late last year when he stopped claiming for what he described as his “abode” in Cork.

Mr Cowen has not spoken to Mr Callely about the matter, but yesterday asked Fianna Fáil general secretary Seán Dorgan to instruct the Dublin Senator to furnish a full explanation in writing “that will clarify the issue” to the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Pat Moylan.

Fianna Fáil said Mr Cowen was concerned that all members of both Houses of the Oireachtas should fully comply with the rules.

Mr Cowen acted following the publication in a Sunday newspaper of details of Mr Callely’s travel expenses. Mr Callely did not attend the Seanad yesterday and was not contactable for comment.

Mr Moylan chairs the Seanad Committee of Members’ Interests and also its Committee on Procedure and Privileges. There is little precedent for this case, officials admitted, and it is unclear how an inquiry will proceed.The Oireachtas yesterday posted on its website the expenses paid to Senators for March and April 2010.

The highest expenses paid were to Donegal Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Dómhnaill, who was paid €3,925 each month. Those who received over €3,500 each month included Senators Dan Boyle; Denis O’Donovan; Fidelma Healy Eames; Jerry Buttimer; John Paul Phelan; Liam Twomey; Niall O’Brolchain; Paudie Coffey; Phil Prendergast and Paul Bradford. The figures show that more than 40 of the 60 Senators receive over €3,000 each month.

Senator Callely’s expenses are recorded as zero for both months. In March he handed back a cheque for €3,987, stating he wished his expenses and allowances to reflect his actual expenses.

“My appointment to the Seanad was from my Kilcrohane abode but I do also reside in my Dublin abode. The new system only accommodates one address,” he told Oireachtas officials in March.

POLITICIANS'  ALLOWANCES: HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS

THE PARLIAMENTARY standard allowance, which came into effect on March 1st, has two strands: the travel and accommodation allowance and the public representation allowance.

Members can opt for the public representation allowance to be vouched or unvouched. For TDs, the minimum certified amount for unvouched expenditure is €15,000 and the fully-vouched maximum amount subject to audit is €25,700. There are lower rates for Ministers and Senators. The allowance can cover office rent; rates; utilities; insurance; improvements; and cleaning. It can also cover telephone calls, computer costs including web hosting, the distribution of newsletters and leaflets, advertising and conference attendance.

The travel and accommodation allowance covers the costs of travel to and from Leinster House, accommodation where applicable, and, for TDs only, constituency travel.

The annual amounts range from €12,000 per annum for Dublin-based TDs to €37,850 per annum for those living 360km or more from Leinster House. Senators are paid a reduced amount.

The leas cheann comhairle, cathaoirleach, leas-cathaoirleach and Seanad leader are paid an allowance ranging from €8,400 to €36,150 per annum, while Ministers, Ministers of State and the ceann comhairle are not entitled to the travel allowance.

The ceann comhairle receives an annual accommodation allowance of €16,350.