TDs face prospect of clocking in to the Dáil

DEPUTIES could face having to “clock in” to the Dáil with electronic swipe cards so that their attendances can be monitored.

Failure to attend could see their allowances docked under the system being considered.

In July, as the debate about expenses reform continued, a group of Fianna Fáil TDs told Finance Minister Brian Lenihan that they would oppose any effort to get them to clock in.

However, according to a newly published letter, Mr Lenihan remains intent on introducing such a mechanism.

The letter was written by Kieran Coughlan, secretary general of the body that runs the Oireachtas, to Tom O’Higgins, the auditor of body.

In the letter, Mr Coughlan discusses the proposal for a “Parliamentary Standard Allowance” [PSA], a single monthly grant which would replace the current raft of allowances paid to TDs and senators.

“I discussed with you on 10 July last year the PSA concept and the use of attendance recording by the whips as a verification mechanism [now likely to be strengthened by the minister with a requirement for electronic card recording],” Mr Coughlan tells Mr O’Higgins.

Significantly, the letter was written in August, a month after the Fianna Fáil TDs had met with Mr Lenihan to voice their opposition to such a move.

Mr Coughlan wrote to Mr O’Higgins after the latter resigned in protest at plans to make the PSA an unvouched payment.

In addition to wanting other reforms, Mr O’Higgins argued that the PSA would have to be vouched in order to ensure transparency and avoid reputational damage to the Oireachtas.

Mr Lenihan agrees, saying this week he had dismissed the proposal for the PSA to be unvouched. “Expenses must be verifiable. We can’t have an arrangement of an unvouched block grant for deputies and I wouldn’t be comfortable signing off as a minister on that as a genuine reform of the system.”

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