IVOR CALLELY refused two offers from Oireachtas expenses watchdogs to intervene with the Finance Minister on his behalf and move him to a lower claims band.
Mr Callely rebuffed the help from the upper house’s officials, insisting he had spoken to Brian Lenihan himself about his situation.
The revelations emerged as the Seanad probe investigating Mr Callely’s €81,015 travel expense claims, centred on his West Cork holiday home, heard evidence from the head of the parliamentary expenses operation.
Derek Dignam, member services’ principle officer, said he himself had noticed that the North Dublin Senator was claiming for travel to and from his West Cork home and contacted Mr Callely regarding the matter as he was concerned an outside auditor may query the situation.
Mr Dignam said there would be no problem if a senator wanted to change his normal address at any time, but Mr Callely had not requested this.
This contradicted Mr Callely’s earlier evidence to the standards committee that he believed a senator could only change his address at the beginning of the calendar year. Mr Dignam said this rule only applied to whether a senator could flip his expenses status between claiming a daily rate of €61, or an overnight rate of €139 plus mileage, meant for members living more than 15 miles from Leinster House.
Mr Callely claimed the higher overnight plus mileage rate for his travel expenses, but when Oireachtas officials wrote to him twice in October and December 2009 offering to make representations to the Finance Department to see if he could switch to the lower rate, he declined the offer – indicating he had spoken to Mr Lenihan about the matter himself.
The committee asked him to calculate how much more Mr Callely had claimed by using his West Cork address and the higher overnight rate, than he would have done on the daily rate from his Dublin home in order that the committee could put a figure on how much the Senator should be asked to repay in the event of him being found to have engaged in wrongdoing.
However, Mr Dignam said he could not answer as it was a hypothetical question.
The committee also heard that Mr Callely had asked that payments of €3,750 for secretarial expenses for three months this year be “parked”, not withdrawn.
Mr Callely told the standards committee last week that his “evolving personal situation” and feelings of rejection by Dublin voters after he lost his Dáil seat in 2007 had forced him to make West Cork his main residence when he entered the Seanad.
Mr Lenihan’s spokesman said the minister had spoken to “just about every Oireachtas member” regarding expenses in the run-up to reforms enacted this year.
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