'Unvouched' payments among funds available to politicians

 

The Westminster expenses scandal has sparked renewed interest in allowances available for TDs and Senators, writes MARY MINAHAN

THE STATE’S TDs receive a more generous basic salary than their British counterparts – €100,191 compared to £64,766 (€72,717).

Like MPs, deputies can claim expenses under a system that is complicated but not necessarily antiquated (there is a mobile phone allowance these days).

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is recommending that the Minister for Finance reduce the €61.53 daily rate available to Dublin TDs and Senators and cut the travel budget for committees.

These and other proposals “will result in an overall saving of up to €4 million in members’ expenses for 2009”, according to an Oireachtas spokesman.

However, for now, there is an annual allowance to cover landline telephone calls made by Oireachtas members. Under the telephone allowance, €6,348.69 is paid to deputies, while the allocation to Senators is €4,761.52. The allowance is “unvouched”, meaning members do not have to provide any documentation to verify that they actually incurred the expense.

A mobile phone allowance can be claimed on production of an original receipt, and members are refunded up to a maximum of €750 every 18 months. Mobile call costs are not refundable, however.

First-time TDs are entitled to claim a once-off constituency office grant of €8,888.17 to establish and equip an office. Deputies sign a declaration of expenses form to claim this allowance.

However, an annual constituency office maintenance allowance of €8,888.17 is also available.

This covers outgoings such as rent, rates and heating. Payment of €4,444 is made twice-yearly, in January and July, on production of a signed declaration that the deputy is incurring expenses in maintaining a constituency office.

The amount of the unvouched constituency travel allowance available depends on the size of the constituency from which a deputy is elected. It can be €2,475, €5,489 or €8,782.

Members living more than 24km (15 miles) from Leinster House can recoup travel expenses for a number of one-way journeys each week.

The number of journeys members can claim for is based on a sliding scale. Members living up to 39km from Leinster House can claim for 10 journeys a week, while members living more than 272km away can claim for three, and there are five other categories in between.

Mileage rates for TDs and Senators were reduced by 25 per cent in March. The rates are now €0.5907 for the first 6,437km in the calendar year and €0.2846 for subsequent kilometres. Travel expenses are claimed by completing a form.

Subsistence expenses can also be claimed, with the overnight allowance set at €139.67 per night. Members may recoup an overnight allowance for the night before and also for the night of Dáil and Seanad sittings, as well as Oireachtas committee and sub-committee meetings.

They also have five opportunities a year to claim these allowances to “attend in the Houses for the purpose of conducting Parliamentary Business with other Members”, and they can claim for attending “in the Houses for the purpose of using the facilities of the Houses” 25 times a year.

Members claiming the daily allowance of €61.53 cannot claim for overnight and travel allowances. An annual miscellaneous expense allowance of €5,489.08 is available for TDs, and €4,112.68 for Senators. This allowance is unvouched.

Members can also claim a special secretarial allowance, include allowing TDs €41,092 to hire a parliamentary assistant.

Expenses scandal forces minister to step down: Foreign, page 12; How clearing your moat can cost a political career: Weekend, page 4

MPs: what they earn

Basic salary:£64,766 (€72,717).

They can also claim for:

Stationery:£7,000 (€7,863)

Communications allowance:£10,000 (€11,233), covering websites, constituency newsletters, postage, etc.

Overnights:maximum of £23,083 (€25,927) to cover “costs incurred when staying overnight away from their main home for the purpose of performing parliamentary duties”.

Members who live in Inner London receive the £2,812 (€3,157) London Supplement instead.

Security costs for offices up to a maximum of £1,500 (€1,684) are available.

Mileage rate:first 10,000 miles per year at the rate of 40p per mile, and over 10,000 at 25p per mile. The motorbike mileage rate is 24p per mile and 20p for bicycles.

Source: www.parliament.uk

TDs: what they can earn

Basic Salary:€100,191

They can also claim for:

Mobile phone allowance:up to a maximum of €750 every 18 months, on production of an original receipt.

Annual constituency office maintenance Allowance:€8,888.17. This covers outgoings such as rent, rates and heating.

Unvouched constituency travel allowance:Payment ranges from €2,475 to €8,782, depending on the size of the constituency.

Daily allowance:€61.53 for members who live within 24.135 kilometres (15 miles) of Leinster House.

Miscellaneous expense allowance:€5,489.08, unvouched.

Source:Houses of the Oireachtas