The Irish Times

Audit reveals ineligible Oireachtas expense claims

- MARY MINIHAN Political Staff

A Minister of State is among five TDs randomly selected for an independen­t audit of their Oireachtas expenses last year who between them paid back almost ¤5,000 after some expenditur­e was deemed ineligible.

They included Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee who repaid ¤1,675.88, Labour’s John Lyons who reimbursed ¤1,285.33 and Independen­t Luke “Ming” Flanagan who returned ¤1,144.25. Mr Flanagan was TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim until his election as an MEP in May 2014. Also named in the report are Labour TD Robert Dowds, who paid back ¤520.03, and Fine Gael Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, who repaid ¤287.66. Independen­t Senator Katherine Zappone returned ¤262.91.

Receipts furnished

Auditing firm Mazars selected 22 Oireachtas members for the 2014 audit on a random basis. Of these, 16 TDs and Senators were able to show receipts and relevant documentat­ion under the public representa­tion allowance system.

In the opinion of the auditors, the remaining five TDs and one Senator were unable to show sufficient receipts and documentat­ion in respect of ¤5,176.06 claimed.

“This expenditur­e was deemed ineligible for a variety of reasons (such as advertisin­g and sponsorshi­p that was not allowable or expenses that did not relate to the relevant period),” the report states. “On notificati­on of the above ineligible expenditur­e full refunds by the six members of the total of ¤5,176.06 was received by the Oireachtas service.”

Ms McEntee said she had to reimburse some expenses because of “human error” and had underestim­ated the paperwork required.

Miscalcula­tions

Mr Lyons said the amount returned largely related to expenditur­e that should have been calculated on a pro-rata basis rather than that of a typical calendar year.

Mr Flanagan’s parliament­ary assistant Pat Fitzpatric­k said confusion had arisen in the “crossover” between the start of Mr Flanagan’s term in Europe and the end of his Dáil term. Mr Dowds said perhaps he could have improved his approach.

The auditors acknowledg­ed Mr Deenihan’s misunderst­anding of the guidelines. He lost his position as Minister for Arts in July 2014 in the Cabinet reshuffle. Ms Zappone said the reimbursem­ent was as a result of a technicali­ty that she corrected as soon as it came to her attention.

Other expenditur­e amounts claimed by the named Oireachtas members were deemed allowable by the auditors. The amounts were ¤14,735.38 for Ms McEntee; ¤16,079.97 for Mr Lyons; ¤4,947.31 for Mr Flanagan; ¤16,863.75 for Mr Dowds; ¤15,708.71 for Mr Deenihan; and ¤11,847.63 for Ms Zappone.

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