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TDs receive €7.2m travel and office allowances for 2012

The Oireachtas has published full figures for 2012. Click through to see how much your TDs received.

Leinster House authorities have published expenses records for December 2012 - allowing us to compile a full picture of how much TDs got in 2012.
Leinster House authorities have published expenses records for December 2012 - allowing us to compile a full picture of how much TDs got in 2012.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive

THE 166 MEMBERS of Dáil Éireann received over €7.2 million in travel and office allowances for 2012, new figures show.

Monthly figures for December, published this morning, have allowed TheJournal.ie to compile full figures showing how much each TD received in the two-legged allowance for the entire calendar year.

As in 2011, Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington received the most allowance payments, with authorities giving him €63,550 in allowances for the year – equivalent to over two-thirds of his basic salary as a member of the Dáil.

This is explained by his commuting distance to Leinster House, however – he is the only TD whose home is over 360 kilometres from Kildare Street.

Contacted last year about his expenses claims, the Cork South-West deputy explained that his journey to Leinster House so so lengthy that by the time he had travelled halfway from his Castletownbere base to Leinster House, he was still within the confines of Co Cork.

Independent TD for Kerry South, Michael Healy-Rae, is the next highest claimant at €62,806 – though again, he is the only TD who lives between 330km and 360km from Leinster House.

Five other TDs from Harrington’s Cork South-West or the two Kerry constituencies, whose commute is over 300km, received allowances of €62,050.

Again, replicating last year’s figures, only one TD has opted against receiving any allowances for the entire year: Eamonn Maloney, Labour TD for Dublin South-West.

Maloney last year explained that he had been on the Dole before his election to the Dáil and felt that his annual wage of €92,672 was enough to cover his travel and office expenses.

His Labour colleague, Robert Dowds from Dublin Mid-West, did not claim any allowances for the months of January or February.

Tweaks from last year

Aside from a small number of TDs switching between the vouched and unvouched systems, two TDs changed their claims entirely.

A change in the records for Wicklow independent Stephen Donnelly resulted in a saving of over €12,080 over nine months. A spokesman said Donnelly had tried to minimise the monthly payment he received, which required him to give a Dublin address for expenses purposes although he still lives in Greystones.

Fine Gael’s Joe Carey, from Clare, moved his home address slightly closer to Dublin and cut his travel allowance by €756 over the year after falling into a separate travel band.

In other changes, Tipp North independent Michael Lowry and Labour minister Ruairi Quinn changed from the unvouched system to the vouched model for January – only to move back from February onwards, after realising that the vouched model would cost taxpayers slightly more.

Quinn’s constituency colleague in Dublin South-East, Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy, began to collect the €1,000 monthly travel allowance from March onward, having declined it for the previous twelve months.

Records incomplete… for now

It should be noted that the figures provided in the spreadsheet above are not final: members are given a few months to return any allowances they were paid in 2012 which they did not end up using for whatever reason.

A report published in June 2012 showed that 57 TDs had returned some of their allowances for 2011, with TDs returning a grand total of €210,091 to the Oireachtas in unused allowances.

Payments to members are made on a monthly basis – irrespective of how many times the Dáil sits in that month, if at all – and are paid in advance of TDs actually incurring the expenses they might actually cover.

For this reason the Oireachtas formally refers to the system as an allowances regime, rather than an expenses system – members are given a fund which they can use to cover their costs, rather than having to incur those costs and then claim them back as expenses later.

Two parts of allowance

The allowance paid to members is broken down into two parts – the ‘Travel and Accommodation allowance’, which is paid out at 13 different rates depending on a TD’s commuting distance to the Dáil, and a ‘Public Representation Allowance’, which is paid on a flat-rate basis.

The latter allowance – which is intended to cover the costs of renting a constituency office, advertising weekly clinics, kitting out the office with a computer and phones, and so on – is paid at two rates. Those who opt to vouch for their allowances are paid slightly more than those who do not.

Ministers and ministers of state are not entitled to the Travel and Accommodation allowance, as any expenses they incur in the line of their ministerial duties are covered by their Department and not by the Oireachtas.

For the remainder, travel expenses start at €12,000 – or €1,000 a month – for those living in Dublin, moving up to €37,850 for those who live over 360 kilometres away (the aforementioned Harrington is the only TD to fit into this slot).

To vouch or not to vouch?

Of the 166 TDs, 50 opted against vouching for their Public Representation Allowance in 2012.

Opting not to vouch for their allowances means that TDs do not have to keep receipts for how they spend their allowance – meaning, broadly speaking, they are free to spend the money however they wish without any oversight (though there are rules on what sort of costs are ‘allowable’).

Those who vouch for the allowance get a higher annual payment – €25,700 as opposed to €15,000 – are required to keep receipts proving that they spent the allowance on the appropriate costs.

This is scrutinised by auditing firm Mazars, who select 10 per cent of the vouching TDs and Senators for a random audit every year. In previous years this has resulted in a handful of TDs having to repay small amounts because they could not provide the appropriate receipts to vouch for some spending.

While Brendan Howlin announced plans to end the unvouched system in Budget 2013, and to lower the rates of vouched payment by 10 per cent, such rules have not yet been brought into effect.

Of the 50 who did not vouch for their allowance, Labour has the highest proportion of members who claim unvouched allowances, with 16 of its 38 TDs opting against vouching for their spending.

20 out of Fine Gael’s 75 TDs claimed the unvouched allowance, as did four of Fianna Fáil’s 19 and two of the five TDs who were attached to the United Left Alliance at various points of the year. Of the 14 non-party members in the Dáil, seven opted for the vouched system and seven went for the unvouched option.

Sinn Féin was the only party to avoid the unvouched model, with all 14 TDs opting to vouch for their spending.

Perfect attendance

Any TD or Senator who does not sign in their presence at Leinster House fewer than 120 times in a calendar year is required to return some of their allowances, proportionate to the number of days they missed.

However, this will not apply to any members for 2012 – every single non-minister showed up for the requisite number of days necessary to claim their full entitlement.

In full: Our interactive spreadsheet showing what TDs were given in 2012

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Gavan Reilly

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