Coimisiún Thithe an Oireachtais, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, came into existence on 1st January 2004 under the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Act 2003. This Act provides for a handover of the authority and responsibility for provision of services to the Houses of the Oireachtas and their Committees, from the ultimate authority of the Minister for Finance to the Commission. The Act was amended in 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015 and an informal administrative consolidation of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Acts 2003 to 2015 is available. [Please note: the consolidation remains a practical summary and description of the current statute law; it does not purport to be an official version or restatement of the legislation.]
The authority of the Minister for Finance, in terms of sanctioning expenditure and staffing levels of the Houses of the Oireachtas, passed to the new Commission on establishment.
The Commission has the authority to make its own expenditure decisions up to a statutory ceiling of €324m over the three years 2013 - 2015. The Commission is required to prepare and publish an annual estimate within this ceiling and to lay this before the Dáil. The expenditure of the Houses of the Oireachtas is charged and paid out of the Central Fund and there is no annual Vote of money for the Houses as part of the annual Departmental Estimates for Public Services.
The Commission has no role in relation to setting the levels of salaries, allowances or other financial resources provided to Members of the Houses or of terms and conditions of staff.
The Commission is subject to annual audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General, is accountable to the Public Accounts Committee and is subject to the Freedom of Information Acts.
The Commission is obliged to prepare and publish a Corporate Plan on which annual reports are made.
On the resources front, when the intention to establish the Commission was first announced by the Minister for Finance in 2001, it was decided to engage the assistance of consultants, Deloitte & Touche, to carry out an international study to compare the staffing levels available to the Houses and to Members with those available in parliaments internationally. On foot of that study, Deloitte & Touche found that the Irish Parliament was significantly under-resourced by international comparison and made a number of recommendations to improve resources.