Finance Minister claims there are 'many legitimate reasons' TDs don't vote while at Leinster House

Finance Minister claims there are 'many legitimate reasons' TDs don't vote while at Leinster House

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said Oireachtas officials may need "a reflection on" the Leinster House fobbing-in system amid claims some are claiming expenses on days they do not turn up to vote.

Mr Donohoe confirmed he is open to a review taking place despite insisting there are still legitimate reasons why some politicians fail to vote in the Dáil on days they are claiming expenses from the State.

In an RTE Prime Time analysis on Wednesday night, it was revealed that several TDs record their attendance at Leinster House for expenses purposes on voting days when they do not take part in any votes.

The issue, which follows on from last week's Dáil vote button controversy, has led to fresh concerns about transparency levels among politicians.

Under existing rules, a TD is only allowed to claim travel expenses if they fob-in on an electronic system as part of the travel and accommodation allowance scheme.

The scheme costs taxpayers €2.9m a year, with expenses based on the distance a TD has to travel from their place of residence to the campus.

The analysis of records shows some TDs are claiming as much as €95,000 a year in expenses, more than doubling their basic income and resulting in demands for assurances politicians are working as expected when they attend Leinster House.

A number of TDs privately sought to clarify their own situation, saying that in many cases they are working in different parts of Leinster House in committees or meeting stakeholder groups while votes take place.

Speaking at a financial transparency media event in Dublin City, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he believes "at times there can be a very clear explanation as to why this happened".

Pressed on the issue, Mr Donohoe said despite some being able to explain the failure to vote, he would be open to Oireachtas officials reviewing the existing fobbing-in system.

"I think at times there can be a very clear explanation as to why this has happened.

There can be many legitimate reasons you are present in Leinster House but not there for a vote. You could be in a committee meeting. . . or engaged in other parts of the Oireachtas.

"If they are engaged in other parts of the Oireachtas I believe that is justification as to why they are able to access that allowance," Mr Donohoe said.

However, asked if he believes a review is needed, the Finance Minister added: “My own experience is that the system works quite well at the moment.

"I think the principle should be that if you are declaring you are present in Leinster house and present in the Oireachtas, you should be doing the work of Oireachtas and that work I would define as either voting, being in a committee or meeting groups or stakeholders that are relevant to the work of Oireachtas.

“Whether a further to review is needed, I think it’s something perhaps the committees that are associated with the running of the House, the Commission of Oireachtas, could have a reflection on.

"But my own experience is that it is a system that I have seen work, and our other Oireachtas members take very, very seriously.”

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