Oireachtas agrees to ‘focused review’ on how members attendances recorded

Move comes in wake of successive absentee voting and ‘fobbing in’ controversies in Dáil

TDs can claim travel and accommodation allowance payments if they personally attend Leinster House on at least 120 days per year. Attendance records are based on the fobbing-in system. Photograph: Alan Betson/Irish Times

TDs can claim travel and accommodation allowance payments if they personally attend Leinster House on at least 120 days per year. Attendance records are based on the fobbing-in system. Photograph: Alan Betson/Irish Times

 

The houses of the Oireachtas commission, which is responsible for the administration of Leinster House, has agreed to undertake a review of how members attendance is recorded.

The news comes in the wake of successive controversies over deputies in the Dáil voting for colleagues who are absent, or elsewhere in the chamber, and politicians “fobbing in” as present for expenses, but then missing votes on the same day.

The “focused review” will seek the views and input of each party or political group in the Oireachtas, as well as a presentation from the audit committee of the houses of the Oireachtas to the commission. It will be completed by early next year.

The views of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, will also be sought as he is the statutory and regulatory authority in this matter. There will also be an examination of best practice internationally.

Restoring credibility

The decision to initiate a review followed a meeting of the commission today, which was convened after a call from Commission member and Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy to address the issue in recent days.

Rise TD Paul Murphy had also raised concerns over the robustness of the fobbing in system and its potential susceptibility to abuse in recent weeks.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, the Ceann Comhairle – who is also chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission – said “it is vital that we restore credibility and public confidence in the system and administration of allowances to members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The review agreed today by the Commission is expected to be complete by January next.”

It will then be considered by the Commission and any recommendations made will be forwarded to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for consideration and action as necessary,” he said.

Records

In recent weeks it emerged that Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae had been registered in attendance on the same day he was present at a funeral in Kerry, several hours drive away.

Mr Healy-Rae has strongly denied any wrongdoing, and said he fobbed in at his Dáil office early in the morning and left for Kerry shortly afterwards – a practice not prohibited by Dáil rules.

Under Dáil rules, TDs can claim Travel and Accommodation Allowance (TAA) payments if they personally attend Leinster House on at least 120 days per year. Attendance records are based on the fobbing-in system.

The TAA payments are worth tens of thousands of euros in each Dáil term to individual TDs, and costs the exchequer around €2.9 million per year.