Posts Tagged 'Irish government'

Callely’s forged invoices claim: New rules mean TDs expenses will now be kept secret

The following story appeared in The Irish Mail on Sunday – 29 January 2012 and was written by Ken Foxe

The Oireachtas has introduced a new expenses claim system which will make it impossible to uncover the bogus expense claims similar to the Ivor Callely’s forged mobile phone invoices.

The rules have been changed so that TDS and Senators will not have to supple receipts – even for supposedly ‘vouched’ expenses.  They will simply claim for amounts they say they have sent, with the Oireachtas trusting them to give accurate figures.   The only method of policing the claims is a system of random audits, under which one in ten politicians will be asked to provide the receipts to back up their claims.  That means that for 90% ( Of 226 TDs and Senators, 10% means an audit of only 22) of politicians,  no receipts need handing over  – meaning the invoices cannot be checked to ensure they are genuine.

However TDs are expected to hold onto the receipts for five years BUT unless they are audited there is no means by which a member of the media or public can ever get their hands on them – even by using Freedom of Information legislation.

Expenses campaigner and chartered accountant, Enid O’Dowd said that even if invoices are genuine there can be abuses.  “There are no rules insisting on value for money or that the work does no go to family or friends for these expenses.  Because we can’t get the invoices under FoI, we can’t check for this,  and the auditors won’t – it’s not  within their remit.

Ms O’Down warned that the new policy was further erosion of our ability to check how politicians are spending our money.

She said,  “Only a minority of the expenses paid to our politicians can be subject to audit as most payments are fixed allowances paid automatically with no necessity to ever show anything like the amount paid was actually incurred.

“This audit only relates to the 10% of TDs and Senators who who opt for the higher allowance  – why not look at those who opt for the lower allowance of €15,000 per annum.  I call this the ‘no questions asked’ allowance.

“The fact that over half of our politicians have opted for the lower ‘no questions asked’ allowance tells me that they have very few legitimate parliamentary expenses and that the allowance is a form of untaxed salary for them.”

Mazar’s carried out the first independent audit and noted that the audit raised a series of issues about the Oireachtas expenses regime and its loose rules.

It said there were no firm rules and what could and could not be claimed in key areas.  Items purchased included bank interest and fees, the purchase of computer equipment, and sundry items like newspapers, biscuits, tea and coffee.

It said  clarity was necessary on the purchase of items such as laptops and printers, and particularly whether they should be returned to the Oireachtas should the politician lose their seat.

Meanwhile former Fianna Fáil Minister Ned O’Keefe also submitted forged invoices yet the Clerk of the Dáil is insisting that the expenses were legitimate yet the Gardaí believe he has questions to answer.

Arrests coincide with payment of Anglo Irish payments to bondholders

On the three occasions that the Irish Government made controversial payments of  billions of Irish taxpayers money to international unsecured unguaranteed bondholders for Anglo Irish Bank debt (€29 billion in total bailout and now owned by the State) , this is also what happened either on the eve or the same day:

  • 1st November 2011:  former Anglo finance director, Willie McAteer was re-arrested. That was on the eve of the controversial payment of USD 1bn (€730m) to unsecured, unguaranteed bondholders.
  • 9th December 2011:  former Anglo chairman, Sean Fitzpatrick was re-arrested.
  • 25th January 2012:    Ivor Callely taken in for questioning over bogus mobile phone expense claims.

How can we create a new vision and value system for this country?

The values many might aspire to promote – values of cooperation, team-playing, treading lightly on the earth, a ‘fair deal’, outlining vision and leadership are constrained by the systems we have put in place and by the systems powerful vested interests resist at all costs.

Our senior politicians by their actions reduce themselves to game play and fighting battles rather than outlining clear vision and leadership while our senior civil service is ivory-towered, protected and totally risk adverse.

We have allowed those in positions of power to venerate the sacredness of institutions and to hide behind them – examples of this are clerical sex abuse and the Government compensation ‘deal’ allowing immunity and anonymity, the Government’s present reaction to the distasteful, unethical and grossly criminal behaviour of the financial institutions and their ‘leaders’ and the most recent Ceann Comhairle debacle, are all symptoms of a deeper malaise. Social partnership anyone?

It may make us uncomfortable to think so but we are a tiny country with a vested interest mentality and with an electoral system that promulgates this culture .  Of course,  we  eventually plotted our own downfall when we engaged in hubris and started to believe our own Celtic Tiger hype.  Many but not all have been guilty.

Identifying a suitable channel for this ‘values’ debate in Ireland is perplexing. There are numerous media outlets hosting programmes which engage in crass debate, point scoring and moan fests where vested interest opinions are proffered yet a complete dearth of channels for any rigorous adn in-depth analysis and explanation.

A new value system will involve a dismantling and restructuring of our institutions but right now our senior politicians and our institutions are engaged in a cosmetic mopping up exercise. We have a vacuum where politicians, public servants and key institutions are shorn of any vestige of moral authority. Nobody appears to have the will, the leadership nor the sheer guts to turn off the tap and re-shape this country with values and vision.

July 2019
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