Pearse Doherty willing to pay back €8k for two workers’ wages. SIPO ask McLellan to clarify.

So the Sinn Fein expenses system again. On Friday we sketched a view of how it seems to work, with the party’s TD’s giving a large slice of their expenses in services provided centrally to the TD. Now we have confirmation from Michael Brennan in the Indo of what’s really been happening:

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty put €8,000 worth of unspent travel and accommodation expenses towards hiring part-time party workers. Another frontbencher, foreign affairs spokesman Padraig Mac Lochlainn, also confirmed that he used unspent expenses in the same way.

Indeed Pearse Doherty is quite open about the difference between ‘real’ expenses and what he actually claims from the Oireachtas:

You will see from these tables that I personally do not keep all of the wages and expenses that is paid to me. Sinn Fein policy states that our elected representatives will only take home the average industrial wage. So therefore I receive a payment from this account equivalent to the net average industrial wage.

You will also see that the remainder of the funds in the account after my wage and my real expenses are deducted is spent on part time staff wages. This is to individuals that I have personally employed in my constituency offices and pay taxes on their behalf.

So party policy requires Pearse to claim for his real expenses and then spend the rest on part time workers. The problem is that he’s claiming these expenses for one thing and then spending it on another.

Specifically Brennan notes:

Mr Doherty only spent €24,000 of the €33,000 that he received for travel and accommodation expenses last year. He paid back €845.05 to the Oireachtas Commission, but that still left a surplus of around €8,000, which he put towards the wages of two extra Sinn Fein workers — both part-time — in his constituency.

The Oireachtas Commission confirmed that the redirecting of travel expenses to pay staff wages was not permitted under rules introduced in 2010. TDs are supposed to return any unspent expenses.

According to WiredwithWhelan the total amount spent in Oireachtas expenses is around €40 million. He also details precisely what more general expenses may be spent on, which includes the hire of two secretaries at 41,092 per year each, which is well above the average industrial wage.

Brennan also notes:

– Sinn Fein officials monitor the bank accounts of each of the party’s 14 TD to ensure that they use part of their wages to hire constituency staff.

– Each TD only takes the annual industrial wage after tax — around €29,000 — from their €92,000-a-year salary.

– The balance, which works out at around €18,000 after tax and pension levies, is used to pay for additional constituency staff.

– Over €250,000 was legally diverted in this way last year alone.

It begs the trite question of who (if anyone) keeps tabs on the member for Louth’s bank accounts?

Despite a blanket denial by the party that it had done anything wrong, Mr Doherty said this morning:

“…if I am in breach in any way, shape or form of any rules or regulations then no problem whatsoever, I will pay that money back.”

Slugger understands that SIPO, having previously taken similar assurances from Sinn Fein at face value is to ask the Sinn Fein TD for Cork East Sandra McLelland to clarify her reported claims that the party is simply taking parts of her salary to put to their own party political use.

Let’s be clear, this is hardly an issue that will bother its base. But there’s considerable debate in the confines of the Leinster House bubble, where in the midst of a financial crisis that shows no sign of abating, a political vacuum is developing where traditional forms of funding are at a premium and there’s big stakes being played for.

Sinn Fein has been aided in using the system by the willingness of its public representatives to do or say whatever it takes to fund crucial electoral assets in order to target constituencies across the country.

The Oireachtas hawks are circling…

  • ranger1640

    Can I ask will the shinner TD’s get a pension based on €95,000 or the amount they say they take €29,000???

    Is this legal, and will they give the balance to the party in perpetuity??? If they will take the €95K pension how does that fit in with their socialist principles???

    Will Adams get two pensions, one form Westminster and one from the Dail????

    To qualify for full a Westminster MP’s pension you need to have been an MP for 15 years. He did 14 years (far to long for squinter http://sluggerotoole.com/2008/03/20/gerry-must-go/) as a non attendee MP, what is the criteria in the Dail?????

  • cynic2

  • sonofstrongbow

    Mr Doherty is I am lead to believe the Shinner ‘finance’ spokesperson. I wonder from which part of the ‘movement’ he gleaned his interesting approach to financial planning?

    Perhaps he will also enlighten us as to the open and transparent recruitment procedures for the staff payed out of the public purse?

    I’m sure the Irish revenue are fully aware of the employment status of these individuals; at the very least to ensure they are not bru-refugees washed up on Sinn Fein’s (tax payer funded) bountiful shore.

  • Mick Fealty

    SoS,

    That’s the closest so far to the relevant question that arises from this issue. As a prospective party of government it would be hard to justify such an obvious misallocation of funds.

  • Framer

    Misallocation???

    False accounting where the ordinary decent criminal is concerned.

  • cynic2

    Now now. Calm down Framer [Ball, not man! – Mods]

    As the only legitimate Government of Ireland they can do what they want – or at least whatever the Army Council and a small coterie at the centre tells them to (See Billy Leonard’s Book)

    Much more interesting is the claim in Smithwick today that 1 PIRA member in 4 was on PSNI’s or MI5’s books.

    All that cash must have been supporting whole Republican communities for years as well as boosting house prices in Donegal and Spain.

    Was any of that ever declared? Or used to pay Party Workers?

    If you took this far enough you could begin to see SF as the creature of both the Brits and the Irish Government, amply suckled on the teat of expenses to lead it to the pen of peace.

    Baaa

  • lover not a fighter

    Sinn Fein should not be engaged is such redistribution
    but when you consider that other political parties sold out a country and its people to dodgy bankers.

    Its a pity that the establishment were’nt as attentive to the corruption of the of the former governing party and the present.

    Sinn Fein should not give them such opportunities but they obviously have the old establishment well rattled when that establisment goes through Sinn Féins financial transactions with a very fine tooth comb.

  • I’m sorry but you can’t have it both ways. On the one hand the argument up to now about SF reps taking the AIW is that they get their full wage paid into their bank account and what they do after that is their business. Now the argument is, how dare they spend their wage in a way that we don’t approve! Load of nonsense from the usual suspects. Next…

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s not the point I’ve been making. Re-allocating expenses intended for TD to represent their constituents to party political (ie building a paid for electoral machine) on public cash is an issue.

    Also, how do you take anyone off the dole for 4k pa a piece?

  • cynic2

    “Sinn Fein should not give them such opportunities”

    ….. is that the ‘I may be incompetent and corrupt but you are more incompetent and corrupt than I am” defence?

  • cynic2

    ” how dare they spend their wage in a way that we don’t approve!”

    ….nothing to do with wages. Its about allegedly claiming expenses for one thing but spending the money on another which doesn’t qualify for the cash.

    Expenses are reimbursement of costs incurred. No costs incurred no entitlement

  • cynic2

    “how do you take anyone off the dole for 4k pa a piece”

    You don’t. But when signing on are they saying that they have been available for work – when perhaps they haven’t? We need to understand this.

  • sonofstrongbow

    It appears that Sinn Fein’s project down Mexico way is as dishonest as that in the UK. Building a profile on anti-gombeenism only to practice brown-envelope politics themselves is inspiring.

    Bold Fenian Men indeed.

    Whereas the drones will pass (next) on declaring ‘nothing to see here’ others will regard redirecting funds, payed out for travel and accommodation, to wages (at seemingly sweatshop labour rates) as something of a concern.

  • gary oh

    Its a real pity for SF and especially. For a long while he was looking the most credible, worthwhile man in the Dail. Expect a lot to b made of this by the government. Jus like they made a huge big deal out of mick wallace. I think Ulick is right here. Anytime pearse opens his mouth about funding this will be brought up. At worst its dishonest and at best its naïve.

  • ranger1640

    Gary, “naive”??? This is a huge party machine with many apparatchiks, advisor’s and were told strategic thinkers. Moving to target seats/constituencies, hardly a structure where naivety is present.

    I would therefore agree with your first assessment “dishonest”.

  • cynic2

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18526303

    And now poor Connor Murphy has been caught (AGAIN) with his trousers around his ankles breaching the Ministerial Code to appoint a Catholic who allegedly ‘knew’ various SF Ministers as Head of NI Water. More mega compensation payments now and a culture in DRD that we ‘wouldn’t have a Prod about us’ in public appointments.

    Apparently the Tribunal found that ” the minister’s evidence is implausible and lacks credibility.” – just like his policies then

    SF’s mighty machine shown up as a weasily sectarian cabal. And this particular shambles from the man once tipped as the rising star and Gerry’s possible successor.

    So will he be held to account? Surcharged? Sacked?

    Dont hold your breath

    By the way, whatever happened to that pesky report on the Christmas 2010 water debacle? All those consultants brought in at huge expense but no report seems to have surfaced.Was it washed away by all that water pouring out of burst pipes or did the Civil Service toner budget run out because the Shinenrs were taking so many from the stores at Stormont?

    Just what did it say? For it to be sunk so deep it must have been good

    Still, we can rely on the Civil Service to control all this nonsense except, whoops, the Perm Secretary of the time just didn’t seem to know what was going on. Given the high profile of NIW one might have thought he would have noticed but apparently not and the Tribunal said it was

    “concerned that Dr (Malcolm) McKibben as permanent secretary with DRD and currently head of the NI Civil Service was not more aware of the situation.”

    Day by day this whole regime – all of them in all the parties and the civil service – look more and more out of their depth

    Job on a whelk stall anyone? (Only Catholics need apply)

  • Mick Fealty

    See the OTHER thread Cynic!!

  • Rory Carr

    “Sinn Fein has been aided in using the system by the willingness of its public representatives to do or say whatever it takes to fund crucial electoral assets in order to target constituencies across the country.”

    A rather strong accusation, Mick, one might think were the statement not so couched in enigma, For clarity’s sake, to ascertain whether or not we might agree with this statement, may we have, as m’learned friends might ask, “further and better particulars” ?

  • In his reply to my Gaelscéal article last week, which focused on the questions surrounding the SF claim they only take the average industrial wage, Peadar Tóibín says the SF TD pays tax on €92k Tds salary and then, after the various machinations of paying SF workers etc, they’re left with €34000. And then, believe it or not, they pay tax on that, which leaves them with €29000. Double taxation? Really? Perhaps some SF rep can give a detailed breakdown as to how this works?

  • Lionel Hutz

    Do we have a link to that Conchubar? I have heard that once before but surely income tax is paid on a Pay as you earn basis.

  • No link, I’m afraid. It is in Gaelscéal as Gaeilge today. Here’s the translated quote:
    1: Concubhar asked the question if a TD pays tax on the entire €92672 and gives the surplus above €34,000 to the party?

    Doesn’t Concubhar know that it’s illegal not to pay tax on your entire salary?
    2. Also we have to say that we take home income equivalent to the remainder following the payment of tax etc on €34000.

  • Pete Baker

    Concubhar

    That doesn’t mean that they pay tax to the State twice.

    It just means that, in effect, they pay tax to the party on the €34,000.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Sounds to me that they pay tax on the full amount and then the TD gets the equivalent to what he/she would have got if their gross salary was €34,000. They don’t pay tax twice

  • Lionel Hutz

    Thanks for the quote though. The wages thing is irrelevant. What they do with that is their business? But claiming travel expenses and then giving it to party employees is fraud. It’s no different to the Westminster expenses scandal. If only we would have a media that exposed it. This will really start to come out now in the Republic as Sinn Fein become more important. And so it should. Just imagine what is happening here, with slush funds and community representatives etc.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s not helped by the fact that the late Brian Lenehan in his great wisdom scrapped the old expenses system and gave Irish parliamentarians one that bears a remarkable resemblance to the death trap that caught out some many British pols at Westminster. .. (including SF, BTW)

  • It’s not irrelevant though I see your point about there being a distinction between wages and expenses. Tds are paid above the odds to militate against corruption. Sf is using the salary of TDs to build up its network of advice centres across the country. It’s the flip side of the Galway tent mentality and is just as dangerous to democracy.

  • Sinn Féin TDs are paid by the State, the same as every other Td. The salary is €92672 – but SF Tds only end up with €29000. What happens with the missing €63000 is my question.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Conchubar,

    Sorry – “irrelevant” is the wrong word. It is just not unlawful and frankly there’s nothing we can do about it. But yeah, it needs to be exposed. I think it’s dangerous that party members are so uniform. Anyone who watches politics will know that it’s just not possible for a large party to think in exactly the same way. The lack of dissent is down to control which is down to the financial dealings. But that’s another matter. We vote for them.

  • Rory Carr

    “What happens with the missing €63000 is my question.” – Concubhar..

    I thought everyone know the answer to that – it is donated to Sinn Féin, the party, by the Sinn Féin TD in accordance with party policy and so fulfilling a pledge given to his constituency prior to his/her election.

    Loyal then to party policy and to pre-election pledges given to the electorate. If such a practice should catch on what ever would all those other poor TD’s do ? They wouldn’t know what end of them was up.

  • Lionel Hutz

    But not declared, isn’t that right,Rory

  • Mick Fealty

    Rory,

    The rules governing donations in the Republic don’t allow such ‘altruism’ which is why the current Dail team are having such difficulties trying to answer questions about what they have actually done with the money.

    There’s a €6 cap on donations of any kind… As Con says, they are elected to represent the people not the erm, detached politbureau…

  • Rory Carr

    If I may, I reproduce a response from a commenter, Duine Eile on politics.ie on this very issue which sums up my own position in nice, clear, simple language:

    “So if Pearse decided to keep all his travel expenses, and instead divert an extra 8k from his wages to pay his staff this would have exactly the same effect, but would be fine?

    This is angels on a pinhead stuff. The only reason this has become an issue for Sinn Féin is that Sinn Féin TD’s publish their expenses on their websites.

    Show me other TDs handing back these unvouched expenses.

    The reality is that every TD claims these unvouched expenses, but only Sinn Féin TDs do anything useful with them.

    This sort of spinning by our grubby politicians and their bent media friends is why we need Sinn Féin, ULA and their like, even if you don’t agree with all their policies.”

  • Mick Fealty

    That is a VERY salient question Rory. Certainly Pearse’s statement was an open goal. But it’s the questions it then gives rise to in the case of SF that make it fascinating. Who are these party assets? Who pays for them? Who chooses them? And why did Gerry have Sandra sitting in Mary Lou’s position in the Dail this morning?

  • The problem with that is, Rory, that, as Peadar pointed out in his article in Gaelscéal:
    As anyone with a small interest in political matters will know, no citizen can give more than €6348.59 to a political party every year.

    So there’s still a gap. Not dancing on pinheads here. Just want to know the full facts.

    Unvouched expenses. Having paid the expenses incurred, any remainder should be returned. Just because SF doesn’t do it and gives the money to the party effort doesn’t mean they’re any holier than the TDs who pocket it for their own use.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Rory

    “So if Pearse decided to keep all his travel expenses, and instead divert an extra 8k from his wages to pay his staff this would have exactly the same effect, but would be fine?”

    It would only be “fine” if Pearse actually spent the money on travel. If he didn’t spend them on travel, the excess money should be handed back….surely. Otherwise, isn’t that fraud?

    If other TDs pocket the excess, they should be exposed. It’s not fine.

    The reason why it is a bit more interesting with Sinn Fein is because of how much of a play they make on taking the industrial wage and not milking the system. If their snouts are in the trough, it’s a bigger story.

  • Mick Fealty

    Riddle me this Rory. If this AIW is real, where’s he going to get the cash from to pay it back?

  • cynic2

    See the OTHER thread Cynic!!

    When I posted that there wasn’t one. Sorry!

  • Oireachtas confirms Pearse Doherty did NOT breach expenses rules

    http://goo.gl/XWDLY

  • Rory Carr

    Gosh ! Imagine that I expect that we shall have a whole new thread now lauding Pearse’s honesty and frugality and his dedication to his constituents.

    And of course lots of breast-beating mea culpas from all those above who were so quick to traduce the man and his party based upon a mischievous allegation made as part of an ongoing campaign to blacken the Sinn Féin policy of their elected officials choosing to live at the same level as the mass of people, which sacrifice frightens the bejasus out of the moneygrubbing, careerist lobby fodder that constitutes so much of the Dáil intake.

  • JH

    Good man Rory, was thinking the same myself. The silence is deafening.

  • Mick Fealty

    Was at a round table event in London last night lads. ive no doubt it will get the Slugger treatment ‘i rith an lae’…

  • Mick Fealty

    Michael Brennan has something approximating a sequence of events…

    The Irish Independent  had revealed that he broke Dail rules by using €8,000 of his €33,000 in travel and accommodation expenses to hire party workers.

    But after the Leinster House authorities rejected this attempt to claim a car purchase on expenses, Mr Doherty adopted a different approach. He wrote to them saying he had only claimed for diesel and toll charges and had forgotten a number of car costs that he was entitled to claim.

    These included oil, tyres, maintenance, insurance, road tax, driving licence, AA membership and depreciation in the value of his car. Insurance On this basis, Mr Doherty argued that he was entitled to claim the full civil service rate for the 45,000 miles he drives.

    This increased his mileage claim from the €11,273 he had actually spent on diesel and toll charges to around €22,000. Mr Doherty said that when his accommodation bill of €13,000 was included, this put him “in excess” of the €33,000 in expenses that he had claimed. An Oireachtas source confirmed that Mr Doherty had now been sent a letter, stating that the regulations had been complied with “on this basis”.

  • Mick Fealty

    More later, but as I have noted before this expenses regime is a potential death trap in the sense it devolves a s huge discretion to TDs in exactly the way the Westminster system did.

    Yet none of this touches the issue raised above; which is what work are these guys getting paid and in whose interest are they working?

  • Rory Carr

    What with all this “huge discretionto TD’s ” taht threatens to be a “deathtrap” it is so heartening to see that the only TD who has been subject to exhaustive scrutiny has been shown to have complied with all that was necessary.

    That Pearse Doherty may not be seen to be “like “Caesar’s wife” has much less to do with his own behaviour or indeed anything of his reputation or known character but rather as a result of a continuing and relentless witch hunt by much of the media in Ireland cheered on by politicians whose own probity would not withstand too much scrutiny.