Does the backbencher O'Donoghue owe us tax?

While some are hoping An Taoiseach may ask John O’Donoghue to repay some of his gross overspending, we are a little more realistic. We know they’re both cut from the same cloth, and thus Cowen will never ask Johnny to cough up.

However, the Revenue Commissioners, an independent body, tell us that benefit-in-kind tax can apply to a holder of public office whose spouses’ expenses were paid for by the taxpayer. It therefore may apply to travel undertaken by Kate-Ann O’Donoghue when she was not partaking in “official business”. If Kate-Ann traveled but was not attending meetings or conferences as the wife of the minister, then the tax would apply.

Revenue don’t comment on individual cases but we wonder how much of the expenses incurred constituted official business. Are the trips as a whole official business or do Revenue take each expense on its merit?

Do water taxis count? VIP facilities in Paris?

Note: Unfortunately the Public Accounts Committee would probably be required to direct Revenue to investigate this, as they did with Rody Molloy.  Unlike Rody, Junket John is politician, so are the members of the PAC… there’s more chance of them doing it than Cowen making the order, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

TD/Senator expenses 2005 – 2008

For the record and as part of an ongoing FOI request, here are all expenses, allowances and salary figures of all TDs and Senators, 2005 – 2008. I received them today via email from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. We hope to digitise this data shortly. I also received the following note:

In relation to the break down of allowances I wish to clarify the following:

1. Telephone Allowance is paid as an annual allowance on a quarterly basis to all Members. The allocation of this allowance to specific telephone bills is a matter for each individual Member, consequently the allowance is not quantified into land line calls and mobile phone calls. Any expenses incurred by members over and above this allowance have to be met by the individual Member.

2. Each member is also entitled to 1,750 “Post Office Preferred, pre-paid DL (one third A4) sized envelopes each month. Any postal charges that are over and above the pre-paid amount must be paid by the Member at the time of posting.

3. Daily Allowances appear within the Travel and Subsistence amounts on the records of any Member who is claiming Daily Allowance, this allowance is a flat rate allowance and there is no mileage element. Members who live within 15 miles of Leinster House can only claim this Daily Allowance.

4. The Travel and Subsistence Allowance for Members is paid as a combined figure through our financial management system and appears in the record as one monetary amount, consequently the record as released will give an overall figure for Travel and Subsistence in each subsequent year.

5. The Allowance to attend in the Houses for the purpose of conducting parliamentary business with other Members and the allowance to use the House facilities are again paid through our Financial Management System. These allowances are processed with the travel and overnight element of the claim, consequently they again appear within the Travel and Subsistence record as a monetary amount in the overall record. There are 25 nights allowed for using the House facilities and 5 nights for conducting parliamentary business.

6. Payments made in a given year can relate to a claim period for the same or a previous year.

7. Office and position holders have higher allowances due to the higher expenses they are deemed to have incurred.

Please note that former Members of the Oireachtas, Mr Tony Gregory T.D., Mr Joe Sherlock and Mr. Seamus Brennan T.D. (former Minister) and Senators Tony Kett, Kate Walsh, Peter Callanan details of whose expenses are included, have since died.

I would like to draw your attention to an administrative error which occurred in the payment of the Constituency Office Maintenance Allowance (COMA) which was beyond the control of Members. This allowance was overpaid by €931.83 in 2008 to re-elected Members due to a calculation error. As the COMA is paid in arrears, this overpayment took place in January 2008 and it therefore appears in the 2008 records. Accordingly the COMA for 2008 is overstated by €931.83. All Members affected were notified and all monies have been fully recouped. You should also note that some Coma payments made in 2008 related to expenses incurred in previous years which were not claimed until 2008.

You should also be aware that while some Members have monies showing in two positions, e.g. whip to a party and a committee position this signifies that they held these positions at different times in the year. The Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial, Parliamentary, Judicial and Court Officers Amendment Act 1998, states under Section 6(2) that “If a member is eligible during any period to receive more than one of the allowances provided for in sections 3, 4 and 5 of this Act, only the higher or highest of those allowances shall be paid or payable to the member during that period”.

I would also like to clarify that the amounts which appear for Members in receipt of Committee Allowances for 2008 in most cases are not an annual figure as various Members were allocated positions in 2007 and payment for these positions were not paid until 2008. The figures which appear are not reflective of annual amounts. I have included a schedule of specified position amounts which were in effect during 2008 for your assistance.

You should also be aware that following a Boundary Commission Report in 2007, several constituency boundaries were revised and re-categorised. All Members in constituencies which were re-categorised were reverted to the lowest rate and were subsequently repaid the correct allowance in January 2008, which in some cases included arrears. The figures which appear in 2008 again for some Members are not reflective of an annual amount.

Explanatory document

Deputies salary and allowances 2005
Deputies salary and allowances 2006
Deputies salary and allowances 2007
Deputies salary and allowances 2008

Senator salary and allowances 2005
Senator salary and allowances 2006
Senator salary and allowances 2007
Senator salary and allowances 2008

Oireachtas expenses 1998 – 2008

On August 30 I sought information on all TD and Senate expense from 1998 to 2008. On September 14 I blogged about this effort, and again on September 16.

As of now the situation is this: the Oireachtas is due to release all expenses data from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2008, for all TDs and Senators. However, we desire a complete record of all expenses claimed. To that end, we submitted an FOI request for all expenses data for 2002 and 2001, with a view to eventually seeking 2000 and 1999/1998. This would include complete calendar years, rather than simply previously released FOI data, which does not cover the entirety of the years in question.

Today we were informed that under Section 10 (1) (c) of the Act, the deciding officer believes that “granting the request would by reason of such number of records or an examination of such kind of records concerned as to cause substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption of work of the public body concerned”.

However they have said they would release previously released FOI data.

We are mulling this one over.

Comment policy

Following some recent comments we now have to implement a new comments policy. This will mean that all comments are held in moderation before they are published. One user in particular has argued that leaving comments on whatever post he likes about whatever subject he likes is his right as a human being, in order for him to tell “the truth”. Unfortunately, one man’s truth is another man’s lawsuit. Comments are entirely at our discretion.

Neither do we tolerate trolling or worse, sock puppetry. Which is especially strange when the same user has been complimenting himself on his own sense of humour via other names, but under the same IP address. I would suggest that he start his own blog, given this fact.

Dan Drezner school of commenting:

1) Every e-mail sent about the blog and every comment posted on the blog is read.

2) We won’t necessarily reply to every e-mail message or respond to every posted query.

3) We’re truly sorry for the non-responses.

4) Unless otherwise indicated, we will not attribute any quote from any email on the blog.

5) When it comes to the comments feature, remember that we control the horizontal and the vertical. Moderation is in operation because of previous abuse of the feature. We will delete comments that we think are personally insulting, completely off-topic from the post, or so incoherent as to pass all understanding. Our space, our rules.

6) When you’re posting your comments, bear in mind that people are watching. Libel rules apply.

… get up them stairs, Johnny

[Thanks to IrishElection for the clip of Junket Johnny O’Donoghue speaking today before his resignation. I’m going to assume he didn’t need a limo to get from the chair to the backbenches.]

His speech reeked of a sense of entitlement that appears to have polluted parliament to a massive degree. The anecdotal evidence that Fine Gaelers are amongst the deputies giving Labour TDs the cold shoulder following Eamon Gilmore’s intervention last week speaks volumes. I suspect this abuse of the expenses system is not solely a Fianna Fáil problem, they just happen to have been in Government the last eleven years. Continue reading “… get up them stairs, Johnny”

Enterprise Ireland expenses for India 2006

More than four weeks ago I put an FOI request to Enterprise Ireland for the following:

1) A list of journalists who visited India with then Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue, at the request of Enterprise Ireland between January 15 and January 24, 2006.

2) A list of all representatives of Enterprise Ireland who visited India between those dates.

3) The total cost of flights, accommodation, hospitality, and any other costs borne by Enterprise Ireland for the trip, and a breakdown of the expenses details claimed by anyone, either from Enterprise Ireland, the press corps, or any member of the Government.

This request was sent at the same time as I sent a request to the Department of Education seeking the expenses of Mary Hanafin for that trip, which I blogged about on October 1. My effort is to try and understand exactly the cost of the entire trade mission to India in 2006. To do this I have to request information from a range of bodies which bore costs for the trip, with Enterprise Ireland among them. More details of this particular trip also appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune.

However the story has also moved on a bit since I received these documents on Friday afternoon. On RTE’s This Week yesterday, Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin was asked about the expenses:


Q: Was it 5 star travel minister, and 5 star accommodation throughout?
A: It was certainly business class flights, em, and there were good hotels. But to my knowledge, the Indian government picked up the tab for a lot of the accommodation, em, because obviously from an insurance point of view…

Except, in at least four instances, it was not business class flights. And hotel costs appear to have only been paid for very senior members of the traveling party.

According to the documents I received on Friday, then Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin flew First Class to India at a cost of €7,390.62. Not alone that, his private secretary Bridget Flynn and Assistant Secretary at the Department of Enterprise Brian Whitney also flew first class, at a cost of €7,330.50 each. The chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, Frank Ryan, also flew first class, and also at a cost of €7,330.50 to the taxpayer. All other members of the traveling party, including three journalists, flew business class.

Is it so certain now, Ms Hanafin? Though I imagine her reply would be that she was *only* referring to her own flight.

And you would infer from Ms Hanafin’s answer that she herself flew business class. The documents I received last week from the Department of Education did not specify whether or not this was the case, but her flight did cost €8,990.28. That’s a very expensive business class flight, in comparison to the First Class Enterprise Ireland flights. Perhaps her Department is using a different booking agent, or booked later leading to a higher cost?

I cannot explain the €60.12 discrepancy between Mr Martin’s flight cost and the other three. Nor can I explain why Enterprise Ireland bore the costs for the flights, but not anything else such as hotels, rather than Mr Martin’s then department. Apart from that, one has to wonder why Mr Martin’s two secretaries should have flown First Class, whatever about Mr Martin himself.

Three journalists also went on the trip, Conor Keane, business editor at the Irish Examiner, Tom McEnaney business editor of the Irish Independent and Una McCaffrey, assistant business editor at the Irish Times. Their combined flights and accommodation cost a total of €19,233.48. Other journalists did go on the trip, but their costs were not borne by Enterprise Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland sent 8 members of staff, including chief executive Frank Ryan. These were:

Paschal McGuire, Head of Press and Public Relations
Irene Sadlier, Event Manager
Doreen McKeown, Market Adviser
Frank O’Connor, Education Services Executive
Gerry Murphy, Executive Director, International Sales and Partnering
Paul Roben, Director EI Bio
Theresa Clarke, Event Manager

Excluding the First Class flight of Frank Ryan, the combined Business Class flights for members of staff was €34,318.20. Hotel costs (excluding any costs for journalists) totaled €19,692.36. Combined taxi fares cost €592.75, meals cost €188.30 and subsistence cost €4,734.82. Sundries costs €1,068.96.

This raises yet another question. The hotel costs for the journalists averaged €1,900. The average for EI staff was €2,813. Why the difference? And why, for example, did Gerry Murphy’s hotel costs come to just €85, while Doreen McKeown’s cost €3,561.89? It should also be said that the accommodation costs for John O’Donoghue’s wife came to approximately €1,900, small in comparison to some EI staff members. I am assuming there were other costs involved in their hotel stays.

In total, the taxpayer paid Enterprise Ireland €109,210.99, to send 14 people to India for five days. The taxpayer paid €26,421.14 to the Department of Education for Ms Hanafin and her traveling party.

That puts my running total for the India trade mission (2006) at €135,632.13.

However, when we add in the work of Ken Foxe at the Sunday Tribune (€48,582 at the Department of the Taoiseach and €65,161 at the Department of Foreign Affairs) we get a figure so far of €249,375 for the trip to India.

And I’ve not yet included John O’Donoghue’s expenses.

Original documents received:
Costs spreadsheet
Enterprise Ireland staff travel policy
FOI decision letter
General Staff Guidelines and Regulations Travel Etc Enterprise Ireland

[Disclosure: In my day job, I work for the Irish Examiner. Mark freelances with The Irish Times online desk. is entirely a voluntary project, done in our spare time]

A visualisation of donations to parties by industry

One of our regular readers, Steve White, has taken the data we collated on political donations and used a visualisation tool to display it.

The box below proportions donations to political parties (not including donations directly to politicians) by donor industry. To change the way the information is shown you can move the “Description of Donor” arrow at the top back behind the “Party” arrow. Doing that will show you to which party donations from a certain sector went to… unsurprisingly Fianna Fáil make up about 90% of the Property and Construction box.

It should be noted that this was built using incomplete data. We have only accredited an industry to about 70% of donors in our political donations spreadsheets, additionally, to give a complete visualisation you would need to add in the details of donations to individual politicians. We’ll be doing this over the next few months, sit tight.

When that is done I’d guess that the percentage of donations from property and construction would be about 55% FF and 30% FG, with the other parties, bar the Greens, covering the rest. This one is skewed slightly because big developers have tended to donate directly to the party, but it is still interesting.

You can read details of all donations to political parties in our spreadsheets section.

Big credit to Steve White.

O'Donoghue's expenses – for the record

[cross posted to]

For the record. Total expenses so far revealed (2006 – 2009): more than €700,000.

Incurred as Minister for Arts Sport and Tourism:

JOD Part 1 (India)
JOD Part 2 (Birmingham)
JOD Part 3 (Berlin)
JOD Part 4 (London)
JOD Part 5 (London)
JOD Part 6 (Venice)
JOD Part 7 (Manchester)
JOD Part 8 (New York)
JOD Part 9 (Turin)
JOD Part 10 (Stuttgart)
JOD Part 11 (Paris)

Incurred as Ceann Comhairle, 2007 – 2009:

Explanatory document on CC expenses

Schedule 1 – Allowances and Expenses
Schedule 2 – Domestic flights
Schedule 3 – Details of foreign travel
Schedule 4 – Official entertainment


Domestic Travel 1
Domestic Travel 2
Domestic Travel 3
Domestic Travel 4
Domestic Travel 5

1 Stop Shop Constituency Expenses