Revealed: The €38m bill to run Oireachtas for one year

PRECISE details of how over €38 million was spent in one year by the Oireachtas on the expenses and allowances of TDs and senators, the salaries of Oireachtas staff as well as on the upkeep of Leinster House have been released for the first time.

The information, which lists over 13,000 items of expenditure, is likely to spark calls for greater reform of the political system and, in particular, the level of expenses and allowances granted to Dáil members.

A Freedom of Information request to obtain the documents was firmly resisted by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The data was only released to journalist and blogger, Gavin Sheridan, after the Information Commissioner, Emily O’Reilly, ruled that a limit of a 12-month time period and a number of subcategories should be put in place.

The Oireachtas unsuccessfully argued that the FOI request was too voluminous as well as being “frivolous and vexatious”.

The records reveal how €26.1m was spent on salaries, wages and allowances of Oireachtas staff in 2009, including over €611,000 under the heading “gratuity.”

It also details how almost €6.3m was spent in the same year on a range of allowances and expenses for TDs.

While many records contain standard allowances paid to TDs for constituency offices and telephones, they also itemise less regular payments, including costs for advertising for TDs in local newspapers.

One firm, Goldblatt McGuigan, was paid €17,600 for the re-design of a website for an unknown TD which was only part vouched as an expense.

Sums in excess of €1,000 were also regularly paid for “leaflet distribution.”

Outgoing Fianna Fáil TD Beverly Cooper Flynn claimed €9,000 in expenses for the use of a media services company in May 2009. The same firm, John Healy Media Services, also received two other payments totalling €19,000 later in the year, although it is unclear which TD used its services on those occasions.

The records also highlight how almost €5.7m was spent in 2009 by the Oireachtas on “incidental expenses”.

They included a payout of €62,577 to the State Claims Agency as a settlement to an action for damages and legal fees brought by the mother of Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister, Mary Hanafin, after she suffered a fall during a visit to Leinster House in 2007.

In 2009, the Oireachtas paid over €534,000 to Ailesbury Contract Cleaning for the regular cleaning of Leinster House, while €118,648 was paid to a company, Media World, for a press monitoring services, despite the Oireachtas having its own communications unit with a staff of seven.

Almost €700,000 was paid to Glenbeigh Records Management for the “ingesting” of objects.

Other expenditure included sums of €486 on photography of Senator Terry Leyden and the Oireachtas’ Christmas tree.

It is understood the Oireachtas has refused to release information contained under other sub-categories on a voluntary basis.

Last night, a spokesperson for the Houses of the Oireachtas said its budget for the three-year period 2010-2012 was €360m — a €33m reduction on its 2007-2009 budget as a result of greater efficiencies, reduced allowances and operational savings.

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