“Substantial amounts of money on consultants..”

BBC NI’s Martina Purdy has been examining the detailed list of MLAs’ Office Costs Alllowances for last year. And she’s noted that a significant number of Sinn Féin MLAs have claimed over £20,000 for, presumably, external “advice and consultancy fees”. The highest use of consultants appears to be by SF MLA Cathal Boylan.. with a bill for £35,245.. It’s all apparently within the scope of the office costs allowance.. but Martina Purdy does pose some interesting questions to be answered.

From the description of the office costs allowance.

Office Costs Allowance

The maximum Office Cost Allowance (OCA) available for 2007-2008 was £68,167. OCA is paid to meet the expenses incurred by a Member in connection with carrying out his or her Assembly duties. OCA is not an automatic entitlement that is paid to a Member by virtue of membership of the Assembly. It can only be paid to a Member who has actually incurred allowable expenditure.

As its name suggests, it is generally used to allow a Member to provide a service to constituents through a constituency office. Items that can be claimed from OCA include office rent and rates, offices utilities (including heating and lighting and telephones), office equipment, office furniture and office consumables. OCA can also be used to allow a Member to engage the services of administrative support staff and to buy in research or secretarial services. OCA cannot be claimed without valid proof of the actual expenses that have been incurred. [added emphasis]

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  • The Third Policeman

    It’s all apparently within the scope of the office costs allowance

    Then what exactly is the problem?

  • Mark McGregor

    I don’t see how one or even several MLAs preferred method of milking every last penny out of the system matters over the fact that the vast majority milk every last penny out of the system by some method of juggling the allowances. Why does it matter if the do it by outsourcing, contracting, inflationary rents, outlandish office costs or a mixture of them all? Nearly all of them are at it.

  • Jer

    Pete, you are suggesting that there is no proof of the valid expenses by highlighting that sentence. Maybe thats to enliven a debate but you have no real evidence that there is anything amiss here.
    If by highlighting that particular sentence you are implying that there is fraud going on then I think thats pretty reckless.

  • There are many other anomalies in the list (ignoring Pete’s all-too-obvious innuendo for now).

    How about Wallace Brown, who paid 5,084.37 for “PREMISES COSTS – RENTS, RATES INSURANCE”, but £0.00 for “PREMISES COSTS – UTILITES”, and a whopping £26,739.72 on “OFFICE COSTS – REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE”. So he never claimed for heat and light (maybe he sits in the cold and dark?), but took an average annual salary from the taxpayer to repair his cold dark hovel. Bizarre!

    And there are lots of other such oddities. Try to be an equal-opportunities grouch, Pete, otherwise you might give the impression of having an agenda …

  • joeCanuck

    Hands up everyone who has never taken home a pen or pencil from the office. Same thing.

  • Mark McGregor

    Wallace Browne’s £27K office refit for a place he is paying rent on is bizarre. Could his landlord not have made the place habitable? Or could he not have decided on moving into somewhere that wasn’t a shithole?

  • fair_deal

    MM

    “office refit for a place he is paying rent on is bizarre.”

    Some landlords provide four walls and a roof whatever else you want inside is up to you.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Noticeable that all Sinn Fein members are claiming £60,000+. Curious exception is Gerry McHugh who got by on £48,000 even though he only left SF at the end of the year.
    Maybe he’d stopped paying his levy to the party long before. Is £12,000 or so per MLA the standard amount?
    Overall the figures are pretty disgusting. Alliance seem to offer the best v for m.

  • pfhl

    I looked through them expenses It is alarming how little of them claimed for Members Professional Advisers. It may be just my opinion but many of them could do with some professional advice.

  • barnshee

    Greedy bastards of whatever hue
    Vote ALL of the bastards out at the next election

  • Dec

    Some landlords provide four walls and a roof whatever else you want inside is up to you.

    You appear to be missing Mark’s point: paying 27K to refurbish someone else’s property is indeed bizarre. Though I’m sure Wallace has aperfectly sensible rationale to explain it.

  • darth rumsfeld

    hats off to Alan Bresland for being the cheapest MLA at a mere £34k in allowances. Pity I know nothing about him, though I suspect he’s a modest man with much to be modest about…

  • fair_deal

    Dec

    “You appear to be missing Mark’s point: paying 27K to refurbish someone else’s property is indeed bizarre.”

    No you appear to be missing the point. Refurbishment to your requirements are not considered by all landlords to be their responsbility e.g. shops units are usually bare spaces with the shop paying for the fitting out to their needs. Nothing ‘bizarre’ about it.

  • [aside]It would appear that Aubrey McCrory, the newish chief Information Commissioner, intends to expose us to further public service ‘competence’ ..

  • Danny O’Connor

    What added value do these consultants bring,who audits their contribution to ensure that this PUBLIC money is well spent and spent in the interest of constituents,not a laundering system to pay money into croney’s pockets.