Public complaints as TDs canvas at cost to the taxpayer

Politicians have been warned to stop using taxpayer-paid Oireachtas envelopes to send out general election leaflets, after “a number” of TDs and Senators were caught misusing the service.

Public complaints as TDs canvas at cost to the taxpayer

Spending watchdog, the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission, issued the clear rebuke last night after confirming they have been contacted by voters who have received letters filled with election material — echoing previous controversies surrounding the use of paid-for envelopes.

Under long-standing legislation dating back a decade, TDs and senators are allowed to use paid for envelopes while in office in order to send out information to constituents and other matters relating to their jobs.

However, they are barred from using the service for any election publicity material before the election has been called as any costs would be picked up by the taxpayer, while even after an election is called they must pay for the expense themselves.

Despite the position being clearly spelled out in the Oireachtas Commission Acts of 2003 and 2012, sitting politicians have repeatedly abused the service — costing the taxpayer tens of thousands of euro.

And with the general election imminent, Sipo has warned the problem is returning, saying it has been made aware of “a number” of cases in recent weeks.

In a statement last night, Sipo said it has “received a number of queries” concerning the use of Oireachtas envelopes, but stressed that existing rules remain in place.

It emphasised that if they use the service, Leinster House stationery, computers or ICT equipment for canvassing they must “repay the cost”.

It is understood that at least a dozen complaints have been made by members of the public.

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