PAC 'should examine all allowances'
Allowances paid to politicians should be examined by the Public Accounts Committee in the same manner those paid to public sector workers are set to be, a Fianna Fáil TD has said.
Seán Fleming, the party’s spokesman on public expenditure, told a sitting of the committee yesterday that it would be “rich” if allowances paid to TDs, ministers and senators were not scrutinised when those paid to others were.
“Otherwise we would leave ourselves open to criticism,” he said.
The committee is to begin an inquiry into the 1,100 expenses public sector allowances, worth an annual .€1.5 billion, next month with a view to finishing its work ahead of December’s budget.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin last week said he had managed to reach only €3.5 million of his €75 million target for cuts in allowances paid to public sector staff.
More than €6 million was paid in parliamentary standard allowance payments to 165 of the 166 TDs last year, with Labour deputy for Dublin South West Eamon Maloney the exception, having declared on his election that he would claim none.
The standard allowance paid to TDs is divided into travel and accommodation as well as a public representation expense. The latter, which can be vouched or claimed without an invoice, covers office expenses. Travel and accommodation allowance covers the costs of travel to Dublin as well as around the constituency.
Independent Dublin South TD Shane Ross agreed that if the committee was investigating allowances paid to public servants, those paid to its members should also come under scrutiny. However, he said it would be “ridiculous” if politicians were left to judge their own case as the process might not be “objective”.
Speaking after the meeting, committee chairman John McGuinness said he accepted that allowances paid to politicians should receive the “same critical analysis”as any other payment.
Mr Fleming suggested that the Clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan be brought in to explain the range of allowances paid to politicians. He said the possibility of politicians being asked to give evidence of their allowance system before the committee should not be ruled out.