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Here’s what the Taoiseach’s Department puts on its credit cards

The Department of the Taoiseach ran up credit card bills of almost €25,000 in Enda Kenny’s first year in office.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, seen outside Government Buildings in February.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, seen outside Government Buildings in February.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

THE DEPARTMENT of the Taoiseach spent almost €25,000 on its credit cards in Enda Kenny’s first year in charge.

Documents obtained by TheJournal.ie show the Department of the Taoiseach ran up €24,594 in credit card bills between March 9, 2011 – the day Enda Kenny took office – and the same date in 2012.

The documents, which cover the period from January 2011 to May 2012, detail a total of €32,272 in spending – and cover all manner of transactions from online newspaper subscriptions to hotel bookings and the occasional bar bill.

The €24,594 in spending in Kenny’s first 366 days in office is over €9,000 higher than the figure indicated by similar records in 2010.

It is significantly lower than 2008, however, when €79,410 was spent – including €22,461 on entertainment – on 29 different Departmental credit cards.

The Department currently holds eight credit cards – three of which are held by the private secretaries to the Taoiseach and the two junior ministers in the Department, chief whip Paul Kehoe and EU minister Lucinda Creighton.

Other cards are held by the heads of the Department’s IT, management services and library units, its chief finance officer, and the assistant secretary in charge of European and international affairs.

Major transactions

Among the highest charges on the cards within the 17-month window covered by the documents are two payments to Independent News & Media, each worth over €1,500, made about 14 months apart. This is likely to refer to newspaper subscriptions.

Other significant payments include a €1,216.55 bill for Publicis, a global PR firm which handled communications at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Its bill, for €1,216.55, is higher than Enda Kenny’s hotel bill for his stay: that came to €1,019.92.

Further accommodation costs on the cards include a €922 stay at the Hotel Silken Berlaymont in Brussels, which coincided with a meeting of the European Council at EU headquarters, and a €788 stay at Belfast’s Europa Hotel during November’s meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council.

Stays at hotels in Brussels and the Hague feature regularly on the cards, which are to be expected given the volume of European Union events attended by Kenny, Creighton and other senior figures from the Department.

Other major features include four separate transactions between December 2010 and April 2012, totalling €2,159.52, from the online electronics shop Pixmania.

Among the transactions on the cards are less self-explanatory, however, including:

  • Two separate transactions totalling €48.50 at Doheny & Nesbitt’s pub on Baggot St, close to Government Buildings, on January 23 last year;
  • A transaction of €20.10 at the Dáil bar in Leinster House on February 18, 2011;
  • A €243.10 bill incurred at a Tesco in Dublin 14 on the same day;
  • A transaction to the value of €1,013.50 at Marks & Spencer on Grafton St in Dublin on February 25, 2011 – the day that polling took place in last year’s General Election;
  • A restaurant bill worth €561 from Pearl Brasserie on Upper Merrion St, across the street from Government Buildings, on March 3, 2011;
  • Two transactions on separate cards on March 8, 2011 – Brian Cowen’s last day in office. One, worth €32, was incurred at Foley’s Bar on the corner of Merrion St and Merrion Row. The other, for €82.25, was incurred in nearby Hugo’s Restaurant;
  • Another €15 payment at Doheny & Nesbitt on May 18 last year;
  • Three different transactions – on two different cards – at the Palace Bar on Camden St, totalling €122.10, on dates in May and June 2011;
  • Another purchase at a Tesco in Dublin 14, on November 25, for €208.15, and a further one in a Tesco in Dublin 2 for €176.79 on January 20;
  • Eight consecutive transactions for €15 – each registered on a separate date between March 26 and April 2 – topping up a Leap Card. All eight of these were refunded on April 19.

A Department of the Taoiseach spokeswoman declined to offer a direct explanation for any individual transaction when questioned by TheJournal.ie.

The spokeswoman said, however, that Department credit cards were used “for official purposes only” and were only allocated to officials whenever they would be “of practical use in meeting the requirements of official business” such as covering accommodation costs.

The use of official credit cards is closely monitored by the Department’s Finance Unit. Expenditure must be supported by receipts submitted by card holders each month and the associated expenditure approved in accordance with procedures.The allocation and use of official credit cards arereviewed on an ongoing basis, with a view to minimising the number of cards allocated, and credit limits are assigned in line with requirements forofficial use on a case by case basis.

The total number of cards held by the Department has fallen sharply in recent years; as recently as 2008, no fewer than 29 cards were issued to the Department. That figure fell to 25 in 2009, 19 in 2010 and to its current level of eight in 2011.

Credit card spending in 2008 stood at €79,410 – of which almost a third, €22,461, was on ‘entertainment’.

More: €83k paid to ex-taoisigh this year – despite scrapping of expenses scheme

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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