Political watchdog criticises lack of expenses transparency

An official political watchdog has criticised the lack of transparency concerning the rules on how Government ministers can claim expenses when using their private vehicles.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) has recommended that the current expenses regime for members of the Cabinet be amended to bring it in line for all other public servants.

It follows a controversy which erupted last March after documents released under freedom of information to the investigative website thestory.ie highlighted how Education Minister Ruairí Quinn had claimed expenses for several journeys to his holiday home in Roundstone, Co Galway, last August while he was officially on holiday.

The Labour TD has claimed €1,451 in mileage expenses in relation to 5,100km travelled last summer without providing any additional detail.

Like most other ministers, Mr Quinn no longer has use of a state car but instead can claim expenses for use of his own vehicle.

Mr Quinn claimed he regularly had to interrupt his holidays in Connemara to attend to Government business.

He also explained that he frequently worked on confidential official papers in his car while travelling to and from his holiday home.

Sipo recently concluded following a formal complaint about expenses claimed by Mr Quinn that there was “no basis on which to pursue the matter” following responses received by the minister and the secretary general of the Department of Education and Skills, Seán Ó Foghlú.

It also pointed out that the rules concerning the mileage allowances for Government ministers allows for claims to be made for use of the vehicles by a minister’s officials while on official business.

However, Sipo said it believed that such rules were “not sufficiently transparent”.

Sipo has advised the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to amend the rules so that details of each journey as well as its purpose should be submitted in future in common with the general system which applies to public servants.


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