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Budget 2013: Unvouched expenses will end, but 95 politicians will receive more

There’s also an across-the-board cut for political expenses, while severance pay for office holders will be scrapped.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

MEMBERS OF THE DÁIL and Seanad will lose their ability to claim travel and representation allowances on an unvouched basis, under changes announced by Brendan Howlin in this afternoon’s Budget.

Unvouched expenses will be abolished for each of the 166 members of the Dáil, and the 60 members of the Seanad.

The move will affect 51 of the 166 TDs, and 44 of the 60 members of the Seanad, who currently claim their allowances on an unvouched basis.

Announcing the measures in the Dáil, Howlin said it was “untenable to have a system of unvouched expenses” given the current difficulties facing the state.

In almost 100 cases, however, politicians will end up receiving more expenses than before - because the vouched expenses system pays over 60 per cent more than the unvouched model.

The 51 TDs who currently opt for the unvouched model are currently entitled to receive €15,000 a year – but those who vouch for their expenses currently receives €25,700 per year.

Similarly, each of the 44 Senators who opt for unvouched expenses can only receive €9,250 a year – but this increases to €15,000 for those who are willing to subject themselves to an occasional audit.

Howlin said that both the Public Representation Allowance, which covers the costs of running a constituency office, and the Travel and Accommodation Allowance – which is calculated based on a TD’s commute to Dublin, and peaks at €37,850 – will be cut by 10 per cent.

This means a TD who currently opts against the vouched system, who receives €15,000 a year, will be forced into the vouched model and will have to keep receipts – but will now be entitled to €23,130 per year. Similarly, unvouched Senators will jump from €9,250 to €13,500.

This means that while a 10 per cent cut to allowances and expenses should shave €585,000 off the annual expenses bill, which comes to about €5.85 million, the increase to allowances for other members means the total savings will be about €414,000.

While politicians on the vouched system are required to keep receipts of their spending, only 10 per cent of people on vouched expenses are subject to an audit each year.

Howlin added that he would seek the input of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in determining who should be responsible for setting the overall expenses rates on a long-term basis.

10-per-cent cut to parties and independents

Howlin also announced a 10 per cent flat-rate cut to the ‘party leaders’ allowance’, a payment made to each political party and to independent TDs and Senators to fund their political research operations.

He also revealed his intention to amend the current laws so that independent TDs and Senators – who, unlike party leaders, do not have to vouch for how they spend the party leader’s allowance – would in future be subject to auditing.

This had been proposed by independent senators on two occasions in the Seanad earlier this year, but defeated by the government on both occasions.

The minister also announced his intention to scrap the entitlement to severance pay for those holding political offices.

Severance pay is currently paid to any politician who has held public office for less than two years. If they have held it for two years or more, they are instead entitled to a pension.

In full: Brendan Howlin’s Budget speech to the Dáil

LIVE: Budget 2013 as it happens

More: Shortall gives up €33,100 payoff after quitting ministerial job

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Gavan Reilly

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