Minister’s move will make it easier for TDs to claim expenses

I refer to Brendan Howlin’s letter (Apr 25) regarding the move by him to increase the amount TDs can spend on secretarial and PR services.

Mr Howlin’s new rule will allow TDs to spend the money they were unable to spend on unvouched expenses on hiring extra secretaries and public relations consultants instead. Mr Howlin’s role as the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform should see him close loopholes in the unvouched expenses culture. Instead he has now made it easier for TDs to claim further expenses on secretarial and PR services.

Mr Howlin has now provided the opportunity for increased expenses that could effectively cost the taxpayer a further €1m a year.

Is this reform? Surely it is time for unvouched expenses to be outlawed within the public service, and only expenses underpinned by proper invoicing and receipts should be claimed.

The unvouched expenses are not subject to audit by the Oireachtas, though TDs opting to allow their expenses to be vouched are entitled to claim more reimbursements under the Public Representation Allowance (PRA) scheme.

TDs claiming unvouched expenses under the PRA system are only required to certify that the funds they receive are for correct purposes! They are not subject to audit unless they seek reimbursement for any spending over €12,000 a year.

Seven members of the current FG/Labour Cabinet and over 50 TDs have claimed unvouched expenses.

This is a shinning example to the rest of society on how to deal with austerity, unemployment, emigration, negative equity, deprivation and increasing poverty.

As the Irish Examiner highlighted, a recent survey of school children found more than one in five (21%) had gone hungry, an increase on a similar survey in 2006.

In the language and understanding of the ordinary citizen, Mr Howlin’s recent decision on expenses is nothing but another easier way for TDs to claim more money with the already austerity-suffering citizens footing the bill.

John Lyons

Bandon

Co Cork

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