Ministers spend thousands on private PR
The Government says it has no plans to reform an allowance scheme which Ministers are using on public relations advice and to hire party activists as temporary employees.
Figures show Ministers spent almost €175,000 during 2012 on “secretarial allowances”. These allow them to meet expenses up to €41,900.
The public money comes from the Oireachtas and is not part of departmental budgets.
While Ministers are provided with funds for constituency office staff and have access to departmental press offices, many use secretarial allowances to supplement these services.
For example, Minister of State for Small Business John Perry spent just over €40,000 on PR, using the services of a former Fine Gael press officer.
Ministers such as Ruairí Quinn, Jan O’Sullivan, Seán Sherlock, Alan Kelly and others hired local party activists or people closely linked to their parties for secretarial services or unspecified purposes. Ministers do not have to tender for such services in accordance with procurement rules.
‘Parish pump politics’
However, the Department of Public Expenditure said yesterday that there were no plans to require Ministers to tender for services purchased using secretarial allowances. A spokeswoman said such allowances were “in the nature of pay” and, unlike Government departments, Ministers were not contracting authorities.
Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan, who spent €41,000 hiring two staff for secretarial services, defended the practice.
“It’s an allowance I use to provide jobs . . . If we take it away, they’d lose their jobs,” he said. “Many look at this cynically as parish pump politics, but I pride myself on providing a good constituency service.”