A review of the recording of TDs attendance records in Leinster House will go ahead in a bid to restore “credibility” and “confidence” in the system.
However, the review will not look retrospectively at TDs claims and attendance by fobbing in at Leinster House, it was confirmed.
Instead, attendance and expense systems used in other parliaments, the opinions of an audit committee and input from politicians in the Dáil will be considered.
The proposed review by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission falls short of calls for a full investigation and stronger sanctions for TDs who may be abusing the attendance system.
The current scheme allows TDs use a fob system in Leinster House but no personal signature or log in is required. TDs must be present in Leinster House, but not necessarily in the Dáil chamber or committees, at least 120 days a year in order to claim travel allowances. However, it is possible for deputies to just register a fob in the Dublin city centre complex and then leave Leinster House.
Alternative parliament attendance systems which were discussed by TDs and Oireachtas officials
at the commission meeting
yesterday included logging in at computer terminals, fingerprint records, physical sign-in sheets and the use of Dáil identification.
A full probe into previous records of TDs attending the parliament was ruled out as it was considered too difficult to check where politicians may have been. Furthermore, some TDs feel the trawl could trigger unwarranted criticism of the Dáil.
One Oireachtas source said:
There have been questions in recent weeks about how a number of TDs fobbed in but then managed to attend other events outside of Leinster House.
Proposals agreed by the commission include an examination of best practice in other parliaments, the views of parties and members of the Dáil, opinions from the group’s audit committee as well as the a submission from Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who is in charge of the system.
In a statement, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, chairperson of the commission, said: “It is vital that we restore credibility and public confidence in the system and administration of allowances to members of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The review agreed today by the commission is expected to be completed by January next. It will then be considered by the commission and any recommendations made will be forwarded to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for consideration and action as necessary.”
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy had asked the committee to go further. In a letter to Mr Ó Fearghaíl, the TD had written: “This brings the entire system into disrepute and has a consequence for the Dáil itself and indeed each deputy. In the interim I believe it’s essential the system is stood down and a signing in system is put in place.
“What also needs to occur is a significant sanction must be put in place as a deterrent. The commission also needs to consider if a fully vouched system should be introduced,” she wrote.
Travel and overnight expenses also needed to be overhauled, she advised. This is expected to be examined by the commission at a later stage.
It is expected that the review of the Leinster House attendance system will be completed in the New Year.