Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Questions (110)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

110. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform following from the announcement in Budget 2013 of changes to the Leader's allowance, the steps he has taken to reduce the amounts payable to persons under the allowance; the current amount payable to persons; if a vouching system has been introduced by his Department; if there is an auditing system in place by the Houses of the Oireachtas or his Department; if an audit of the allowance as paid to individual members as opposed to parties has taken place since the announcement was made; if all individual members in receipt of the allowance will be audited on an annual basis or if it is expected that a small group of members will be selected for random auditing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29458/13]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Party Leaders Allowance is provided for in the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) Act, 1938, as amended by the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act, 2001. Legislation is necessary to give effect to any changes, including those I announced in the context of the Expenditure Estimates for 2013.

Under the legislation, the amount of the Allowance currently payable to a qualifying party leader is calculated based on the number of members in that party elected at the time of election, in accordance with the following table:

TDs

Rates: September 2008 to date

Rates: September 2008 to date

Government Parties*

First 10 members

71,520

47,680

11 members to 30

57,214

38,143

More than 30 members

28,616

19,077

Senators

First 5 members

46,766

Over 5 members

23,383

*The legislation provides that, in the case of a qualifying party forming part of the Government, the combined allowances due in respect of TDs of that party are reduced by one third.

The legislation also provides that payments may be made to a member of Dáil Éireann, who at the last preceding general election or at a subsequent bye-election was elected as a member other than as a member of a qualifying party. Such qualifying independent TDs are currently entitled to an annual rate of €41,152. A similar provision in the Act provides for an annual payment, currently amounting to €23,383, for independent Senators. In the context of the Expenditure Estimates for 2013, I announced that a 10% reduction will be applied to the Party Leaders Allowance rates payable to qualifying leaders of political parties and to qualifying independent Members. Under the legislation, a qualifying leader of a party is required to prepare a statement of expenditure for the Party Leaders allowance, have it audited by an independent auditor and furnish it with the auditor’s report to the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) Commission, who report to the Minister and to the Oireachtas. Allowances paid to independent members are not currently subject to these oversight provisions. I also announced my intention to amend the legislation to improve the transparency of the Allowance by providing for auditing provisions to apply to independent Members in receipt of such payments.

I have taken the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of the Allowance and a consultation process has been undertaken with leaders of qualifying parties, qualifying independent members and with the Standards in Public Office Commission. On foot of that review, I intend to bring proposals to Government very shortly on necessary amendments to the legislation underpinning the Allowance, including amendments to implement the measures I have already announced.