Politicians warned to stop using taxpayer-funded envelopes for election leaflets

Politicians have been warned to stop using Oireachtas envelopes paid for by taxpayers to send out general election leaflets after "a number" of TDs and Senators were caught misusing the service.

Politicians warned to stop using taxpayer-funded envelopes for election leaflets

Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter

Politicians have been warned to stop using Oireachtas envelopes paid for by taxpayers to send out general election leaflets after "a number" of TDs and Senators were caught misusing the service.

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 taxpayer 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 by using paid-for envelopes for their own personal reasons - costing the taxpayer tens of thousands of euro in unnecessary costs.

With the general election imminent, SIPO has warned the problem is returning again, saying it has been made aware of "a number" of cases in recent weeks of envelopes filled with election material being posted through voters doors.

In a statement last night, SIPO said it has "received a number of queries concerning the use of Oireachtas envelopes by members of the Oireachtas in the lead-up to the dissolution of the Dáil" but stressed that existing rules remain in place.

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

It is understood that at least a dozen complaints have been made by members of the public about receiving election material in the pre-paid envelopes have emerged to date.

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