Over 100 politicians overclaim expenses

TheStory.ie has obtained from the Oireachtas FOI documents released to journalist Ken Foxe, who sought details relating to the expense claims of TDs and Senators. The documents show how more than 100 TDs and Senators claimed expenses to which they were not entitled between 2007 and 2009. Some claimed for attending committee meetings which they hadn’t attended, while others submitted claims for attending the Dail when they were abroad. The documents appear to show two things: one that many politicians claimed for expenses they were not entitled to, and two that the Oireachtas has been writing to politicians consistently, checking that particular overnight claims were justified.

Beverly Flynn was blocked from claiming expenses for a committee meeting to which she had sent “her apologies”. Noel Grealish tried to claim for eight overnights – each worth €130 – whilst away on an official trip in Thailand, New Zealand, and Australia.

Fianna Fail’s Ned O’Keeffe received 11 separate letters from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission regarding his expense claims for 33 “overnight” claims – with an estimated tax-free value of €4,290. Minister of State Peter Power also had a total of 16 overnights, which would have yielded around €2,080, blocked from his claims.

Fianna Fail TD Eamon Scanlon received no less than 10 letters from the Oireachtas to say his expenses were not in order. The letters detailed overclaims of 30 one-way journeys from Sligo to Dublin and 38 overnights worth more than €7,000 to which he was not entitled. Outgoing Fine Gael TD PJ Sheehan lodged an expense claim for a meeting he never attended.

Outgoing Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen was informed that he was not entitled to 22 overnight allowances for “using the facilities of the House” and could only claim for 12 of these. Outgoing Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews was contacted twice, both for an overclaim of a single day, with his daily turning-up allowance of €60 disallowed.

Bobby Aylward of Fianna Fail was also written to three times, twice for overclaims of a single night worth €130 and once for an overnight claimed whilst in Brussels with the Joint Committee on Climate Change delegation. Fine Gael’s James Bannnon made the same mistake twice and claimed for overnights whilst he was abroad on Oireachtas junkets.

Niall Blaney from Fianna Fail was contacted on four occasions by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission after more than €1,800 in expenses was disallowed. Fine Gael’s Pat Breen was also contacted twice, once for an over-claim for mileage and secondly for overnights while abroad.

John Browne of Fianna Fail received four letters from the Houses of the Oireachtas outlining six overnight allowances of €130 to which he was not entitled, including one whilst on official business in Strasbourg. Noel Coonan of Fine Gael made an overclaim worth more than €900 according to the records and had expenses for seven “overnights” ruled out.

His party colleague Michael Creed was contacted on six separate occasions, with the letters concerning a total of eight “overnight allowances” to which he was not entitled. Green TD Ciaran Cuffe, who was entitled to a daily allowance of around €60 simply to turn up at work made a claim in 2009 for 86 days of official business in the Dail when the maximum he could claim for was 60 days.

Wexford politician Michael D’Arcy was twice contacted about his expenses claiming for 75 overnights in a period where 65 overnights was the maximum allowed. Fine Gael’s Jimmy Deenihan and his party colleague Bernard Durkan also saw an expense claims disallowed. Fine Gael TD Damien English had four overnights worth €520 disqualified after he claimed whilst abroad. Fianna Fail TD Frank Fahey over-claimed for nine separate ‘overnights’ – worth around €1,200 – while overseas.

Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris had 13 one-way journeys to Kerry and six overnights were being disallowed because he had already reached his quota. The Mayo TD Beverley Flynn made a claim for €260 for a committee meeting that she had not attended. Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher had four one-way journeys from Co Donegal disallowed as was a claim for attendance at the Dail on a day when no sitting took place.

Labour’s Michael D Higgins claimed expenses while abroad and three overnights claimed while in Oslo were also blocked. Maire Hoctor of Fianna Fail received three letters disallowing a total of 11 overnights and six one-way journeys from Tipperary, worth an estimated €2,000.

Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan had two overnight allowances disallowed.

Peter Kelly of Fianna Fail claimed for one night’s expenses on the basis that the meeting had taken place on September 15. However, it subsequently emerged that the meeting happened the following day and coincided with a Dail sitting day, for which the TD had already claimed. He also had six one-way journeys from Longford dismissed because they coincided with a five day visit to Strasbourg.

The Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny had a claim disallowed for thirty overnights to attend the Dail when the maximum he could claim was twenty six. Michael Lowry made the same mistake, putting in for twelve nights in Dublin when the maximum he could ask for was eight. Fine Gael’s Padraig McCormack was also blocked from claiming overnight expenses for meetings he did not attend.

Similarly, Dinny McGinley of Fine Gael was also blocked from claiming expenses for a committee meeting … one of which hadn’t even taken place. The former Minister John McGuinness was told he was entitled to just five of nineteen overnights put in for, and disallowed claims worth €1,820. Minister Martin Mansergh was told an overnight would not be paid for a meeting of the Finance and Public Service Committee, that had been cancelled in January 2008.

Cork TD Michael Moynihan received three letters ruling that seven overnighters in Dublin, worth €910. Fine Gael’s Dan Neville claimed for four overnights when he was on a visit to Prague. The outgoing Fianna Fail TD Noel O’Flynn got letters concerning excessive overnight claims totalling seven nights, or the equivalent of around €900. He also claimed for travelling to the Dail on four occasions when he was in Washington at the time.

The Minister Batt O’Keeffe also had his expenses trimmed after claiming for four overnights in a period between June 14 and June 19 in 2007. The Houses of the Oireachtas subsequently wrote to him and told he was entitled to just one. Emmett Stagg put in a claim for 83 daily turning-up allowances, when he was entitled to just 71.

Fine Gael’s Billy Timmins was disallowed from claiming two nights worth of expenses for a European Affairs meeting that he had not been at, according to records. The Green Party TD Mary White also put in for a meeting of the Enterprise, Trade and Employment committee in September 2008 when she had sent apologies and according to Oireachtas records she was not in attendance.

The documents do not include Ministers whose expenses are paid by their Department.

Here are the original documents, indexed by politician on the right (click the expand button on the bottom left to see the full page). The document can be downloaded from the right hand menu:

This is the full statement issued by the Oireachtas:

The Houses of the Oireachtas operates a robust and meticulous administration of TDs and Senators expenses and entitlements. Every application is fully vetted and no payments are made until the Oireachtas is fully satisfied that each claim is consistent with the Department of Finance regulations.

The former system of members’ expenses, was a complex scheme based on a number of various elements including; claiming for a number of Oireachtas sittings; claiming for a number of journeys to and from Leinster House and for entitlements for attending the Oireachtas for parliamentary business and Committee meetings. Due to its complex structure, the irregular nature of claims and the changeable Oireachtas schedule this gave rise to inaccuracies.

Last year, in order to make the system more simple and streamlined for members and more accountable from a public perspective, the Houses of the Oireachtas overhauled the arrangements for paying expenses to TDs and Senators.

These changes feature a regular all-in allowance and a standard travel and accommodation allowance based on distance from Leinster House. The travel and accommodation allowance is verified by means of a fobbing~in system and deductions are applied for non-attendance. All details of members’ expenses and attendance records are also
published on line.

On any occasions where errors did occur, the Member was written to and notified of their mistake. The matter was also referred to an Oireachtas internal audit report.

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