The following excellent letter on the issue of politician’s expenses appears in today’s Irish Times.
I write to support the comments of Jason Power (September 22nd).
On August 28th, 2010 you published an opinion piece from myself detailing the history of our politicians’ expenses culminating in the “reformed” system introduced in March 2010.
To highlight just one aspect of the “reformed” system, TDs no longer had to submit detailed travel claim forms with receipts.
Instead they received generous round figure allowances depending on the distance of their home from the Dáil, paid monthly and tax free. These allowances are known as turning up money.
TDs living within normal commuting distance of the Dáil do extremely well.
Those living within 25km of the Dáil receive €12,000 per annum tax free, which is slightly more than the contributory old age pension for a year.
TDs living within 25km to 60km from the Dáil receive €28,106 tax free which is more than many workers earn gross in a year.
These payments are in effect untaxed salary. Allowing for income tax (41 per cent), PRSI (4 per cent) and USC (7 per cent) the payments equate to €25,000 gross for those receiving the €12,000 rate and €58,554 gross for those on the €28,106 rate.
Naively I assumed the new government would genuinely reform the expenses system, and at the very least end the scandal of those TDs living within normal commuting distance getting these travel payments while ordinary workers pay their own costs to work.
Eighteen months in government and no action; but our masters are actively considering curtailing the free travel enjoyed by OAPs!
I wrote to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin earlier this year pointing out the conflict of interest politicians have in setting their own expenses, and offering to serve on a committee to recommend a proper system.
I stressed the public disquiet about the present system.
I was politely told to get lost.
Enid O’Dowd FCA,