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TDs claimed more than €500,000 in expenses during March - despite only sitting twice

It brings to €3.4 million the amount known to have been paid to TDs and Ministers between the general election and the formation of the new government.

20/9/2013. Culture Festivals Nights Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated: 16 May

THE MEMBERS OF Dáil Éireann claimed a total of €583,003.34 in travel and accommodation expenses during March and the last four days of February, new figures reveal.

That’s despite only two Dáil sittings during that period.

Figures for the Parliamentary Standard Allowance (PSA), which includes the Travel and Accommodation Allowance (TAA) and Public Representation Allowance (PRA), were published on Wednesday.

An analysis by TheJournal.ie shows an extraordinarily high payment rate, despite the unusually low number of sittings.

From 1 to 30 March – a period for which TDs claimed €515,014 in expenses – the Dáil sat on two occasions: 10 and 22 March. The 15 members of the sub-committee on Dáil reform held one meeting, on 23 March.

By contrast, there were 12 Dáil sittings, and a total of 44 committee and sub-committee meetings in March last year.

That month, deputies claimed €508,083 in expensesless than the €515,014 claimed for March this year, despite there being eight more members of Dáil Éireann in 2015.

According to the official Oireachtas website, the Travel and Accommodation Allowance is:

…Based on the distance from the member’s normal place of residence to Leinster House and covers the costs associated with travel to and from Leinster House, overnights and, for TDs only, other travel expenses including constituency travel.

The annual payable allowance is divided into geographic bands, and ranges between €9,000 a year for a TD living within 25 km (15.5 miles) of Leinster House, and €34,065 a year for a TD living more than 360 km (224 miles) from the Dáil.

Office holders, such as government ministers and the Ceann Comhairle, are paid at a slightly lower rate.

At the start of each year, TDs certify their habitual place of residence, and are paid the TAA every month on this basis.

This predetermined payment rate is likely part of the reason why the overall PSA bill for March surpassed €500,000, even though there were only two sitting days.

At the end of each year, deputies must show that they were present in the Dáil for at least 120 days, or 1% of their yearly TAA is deducted for every day under 120 days that they did not attend.

The attendance record for each TD in March can be found here.

Irish Government Source: PAUL FAITH/PA

The second component of the Parliamentary Standard Allowance is the PRA – Public Representation Allowance. 

This allows TDs to write off certain expenses associated with their work – such as office rental and furniture, phone bills, hiring meeting rooms, printing leaflets and newsletters, and so on.

The maximum yearly allowance for TDs is €20,350. At the start of each year, deputies certify how much PRA they want to take each month.

If their actual spending is less than this amount, they must repay the difference at the end of the year. If they end up spending more than their monthly allowance, they can receive a rebate at the end of the year, up to the total annual PRA of €20,350.

Ten percent of TDs are randomly selected for an audit at the end of the year, so deputies are supposed to keep receipts and invoices relating to the PRA in case of this eventuality, but they do not have to provide evidence as they go along.

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The annual PRA for ministers is about 20% lower than that of TDs. Given the geographic bands associated with the Travel and Accommodation Allowance, it’s not surprising that the TDs who claimed the most from 26 February to 30 March were from the most far-flung constituencies.

  • Michael Collins (Independent, Cork South-West): €5,160.04
  • Danny Healy-Rae & Michael Healy-Rae (Independent, Kerry): €5,096.51 each
  • Michael Creed (FG, Cork North-West); Jim Daly (FG, Cork South-West); Martin Ferris (SF, Kerry); Brendan Griffin (FG, Kerry): €5,032.02 each

All 158 TDs in the 32nd Dáil were listed as having claimed expenses for March and the end of February, with the exception of Brendan Howlin, Willie O’Dea, and Aindrias Moynihan.

We asked all three why they did not appear on the list of expenses for this period.

Moynihan, a newly-elected Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North-West, told us that his claim was filed late, but that he would be claiming expenses for February and March, at a later date.

A spokesperson for Howlin told us his PSA claim for the period was still being processed, but would be published at a later date.

april14votechat Source: Oireachtas.ie

The publication of TDs’ expenses for March brings to €3.4 million the total amount known to have been paid to members of the Dáil and government ministers, between the general election on 26 February, and the formation of the new government last Friday.

  • 158 TDs were paid their monthly salaries on two occasions, amounting to €2,448,881.50 before tax
  • Government ministers (including those who lost their Dáil seats) were paid their fortnightly ministerial salaries on five occasions, amounting to €308,839.40 before tax
  • TDs were paid their monthly Parliamentary Standard Allowance once, amounting to €583,003.34
  • Former Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett and Seán Ó’Fearghaíl, who took over the role on 10 March, were paid a total of €12,676.43 before tax
  • Former Leas Ceann Comhairle Michael Kitt was paid €1,318.72 in pre-tax salary from 26 February to 9 March
  • Some €33,485.88 has been paid out in ministerial expenses (mileage, foreign travel, and so on), according to figures provided to TheJournal.ie by government departments.

That total of €3,388,205.27 will grow when the PSA figures for April are published, and TDs are paid their salaries for May – five days of which were spent without a government.

And at the end of June, figures will be published for the Parliamentary Activities Allowance (formerly the Party Leaders’ Allowance), from the same period.

Originally published: 14 May

Correction: This article has been changed to reflect the fact that a spokesperson for Brendan Howlin did in fact respond to our query regarding his absence from the March PSA figures. We apologise for the omission.

Read: Outgoing Dáil Chairmen paid €17,626 in February and March, despite overseeing just four hours of debate>

Read: ‘There’s no wrongdoing here’ – Katherine Zappone defends Dáil travel expenses>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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