Oireachtas expenses system 'flawed'

Fri, Nov 23, 2012, 00:00

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness has described the system of expenses paid to TDs and Senators as “flawed” and called for it to be reviewed independently.

Mr McGuinness, who published the PAC report on public sector allowances yesterday, said the committee was not happy with the presence of a series of unvouched expenses in the system.

“On the whole issue of administration of the system, it is flawed as it can lead to an overpayment of expense allowances. The system needs to be modified so that expenses incurred have a direct relationship to the payment,” he said.

Mr McGuinness highlighted the payment to TDs of a 12th of the annual travel and accommodation rate in August when they are unlikely to go to the Dáil and require somewhere to stay. “Such payments are routinely published and . . . it damages the body politic.”

He also said the value of allowances paid to TDs to meet costs generated by constituency-related activities had not been quantified since 1996. The committee recommended a study be done of those costs in order to give guidance on setting appropriate rates.

The report recommended all payments of allowances to Oireachtas members be vouched or verified from January 1st, 2013. It said the continued payment of allowances to cover specified positions, such as committee chairs, should be reviewed independently to determine what rate “if any” was appropriate for such posts.

Mr McGuinness said the public service was “encumbered” by 1,100 allowances. He described the system as a “complex matrix” and categorised many allowances as “legacy” payments that provided a large portion of the income of lower-paid workers.