Oireachtas members obliged to repay expenses after audit

 

Seven of 12 Oireachtas members subject to a random audit of expenses were ordered to pay money back, with Fine Gael TD Derek Keating submitting a refund of more than €7,500.

Fine Gael TD Ray Butler was told to repay €4,923.69 of the €16,210.04 paid to him and said he would do so by February.

An independent auditor’s report found the seven members were unable to show sufficient receipts or relevant documentation within allowable expenditure categories relating to the public representation allowance paid to TDs and Senators.

Fine Gael TD Joe O’Reilly returned €1,400.61 of the €22,643.47 he received.

The expenditure was ineligible due to lack of evidence in the form of vouchers, receipts or bills to show that expenses were incurred in the relevant period to the amount claimed and were not applied wholly in respect of expenses specified by guidelines.

Labour TD Ciarán Lynch returned €1,316.47 of €22,527.82, while Labour Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White gave back €466.72 of €20,358.14. Fine Gael Minister of State for training and skills Ciarán Cannon repaid €308.57 of €15,105.82 and Labour Senator Susan O’Keeffe €91.41 of €7,046.89.

The public representation allowance (PRA) can cover office rent, rates, utilities, insurance, improvements and cleaning. It can also cover telephone calls, computer costs including web hosting, distribution of leaflets, advertising and conference attendance.

Members can opt for the PRA to be vouched or unvouched. The minimum certified amount for unvouched expenditure is €15,000 for TDs and €9,250 for Senators. The maximum amount for vouched expenditure is €25,700 for TDs and €15,000 for Senators.

A total of 119 of the Oireachtas’s 226 TDs and Senators receive vouched allowances.

The vouched allowance is subject to audit. Members are required to retain receipts and supporting documents for inspection for five years.

Mr Keating, who returned €7,571.68 of €13,420.96, said: “As a newly-elected deputy last year I opted for the vouched expenses. My understanding was that I was in keeping with the regulations. But I fully accept the auditor’s view. I paid it back immediately.”

Mr Keating said he regularly published his expenses on his website.

Those found to be fully compliant by the auditors were: Labour Minister of State for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch; Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe; Fine Gael TDs Joe Carey and Tom Barry; as well as Independent TD Catherine Murphy.

The auditing firm Mazars was appointed by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission.