The Irish Times
Audit reveals ineligible Oireachtas expense claims
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.
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.
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.