Ruairi Quinn and his mileage claim

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has been asked this week to explain a mileage claim he made in July of last year.

For the month in question, Mr Quinn claimed for 5,100 kilometres (worth €1,451). Searching his official diary for the month however, shows that Mr Quinn had only a single engagement outside of Dublin, when he spoke at the MacGill summer school in Co Donegal.

On six of the days that month, he was on an official visit to Chicago while a further seven days are either specifically marked “private” or simply left blank.

Calculating all of the mileage that was apparent from the diary comes to less than 1,000 kilometres of the total, making it impossible for the public or media to identify how the other 4,100kms were incurred.

Over the course of three weeks, a number of queries were submitted to Mr Quinn’s Department, the upshot of which was that the official diary does not account for all travel.

Subsequently, in radio interviews on Newstalk and RTE this week, Mr Quinn said that some of the mileage relates to other people, including civil servants and so on, traveling on his behalf.

Here is the lengthy story that I wrote based on the documents.

The diary and expense claims for the month can be found here:

At the very least, this shows an expense system that is badly in need of reform with simply no way of retrospectively checking how the mileage was incurred.

There are few, if any, private companies (or indeed public bodies) that would simply allow readings from an odometer to count for the purposes of paying out a not insignificant amount of money. Almost all would seek a detailed list of journeys conducted, their purpose, their date and so on. And when people talk of vouched expenses, that is the type of system they mean.

Vouched expenses does not mean a TD making a claim, then holding on to a receipt, with only a 10% possibility of being audited. Nor does it mean simply entering a round figure on an expense sheet without supporting documentation.

Howlin's compromise on pay rejected by the Taoiseach

Brendan Howlin, the Minister responsible for overseeing a pay cap for special advisers, tried repeatedly to come to a compromise agreement on the pay of Ciaran Conlon.

The negotiations over the bumper salary of €127,000 that was finally set out for Mr Conlon show that Brendan Howlin had serious concerns about it and did not believe it could be justified under any circumstances.

He also said it would set a poor example and would provoke other Ministers into seeking higher pay for their advisers, or ask for salaries – that were already agreed – to be renegotiated.

The new emails, obtained from the Department of Public Enterprise, show that the Department of the Taoiseach repeatedly intervened in the process and would not accept a compromise of ca €115,000, which Howlin had pleaded with them to accept.

It would have presented a face-saving solution to the sensitive problem and was still, as Mr Howlin himself pointed out, a 25% increase on the original offer. In the end, he caved in following a demand that came directly from the Taoiseach [see below post].

Some of the documents on which this are based are posted here, with the more important exchanges coming towards the end.

A lengthy story that I wrote, which outlines it in further detail, is available here:

These new emails, now released by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,  should, to my mind, have already been released under an FoI request that was submitted to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation about the same matter.

That they were not is suspicious. The decision on their release is currently being appealed and will in due course be made known to the Information Commissioner.

Enda Kenny overruled two Ministers to give €35,000 pay rise

Taoiseach Enda Kenny personally intervened to have a special adviser awarded a salary of €127,000, 37 per cent more than had been recommended.

These are some of the Department of Enterprise communications, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which outline the chain of events leading to the decision.

After the general election, Ciaran Conlon was appointed as an adviser to Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton. Under new guidelines set out by the Department of Finance, a salary cap had been put in place for such positions, ranging from around €80,000 to €92,000 per year. It appears from the emails however, that Mr Conlon had already been promised an annual wage of €127,000.

A difficulty arose when both Minister for Public Expenditure Reform Brendan Howlin and Finance Minister Michael Noonan refused to grant this higher salary. A memo in the Department of Enterprise explained that they were willing to pay him at the higher end of the scale, approving a pay level of €92,000.

Ciaran Conlon, a former communications chief with Fine Gael, was not happy with this, writing in an email: ‘This is getting ridiculous. The minister sent over a memo on this issue weeks ago. This has been passed at the very highest level in Government Buildings.’

Enda Kenny then intervened with his private secretary writing to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and expressing the Taoiseach’s wish for a salary of €127,000. The Department caved in and a new contract for Mr Conlon was drawn up.

The story I wrote in this week’s Mail on Sunday outlines what happened in more detail:

Here are the documents: