Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Senator Callely’s defence of expenses lacks substance

Senator Ivor Callely, (Ivor the Driver) must think the public are a gullible posse of morons, as illiterate as himself but with a screw loose.  He announced that the trauma of rejection following his defeat in the last general election prompted him to move to West Cork – hence the justification for dipping his hand in the public purse and taking over €81,000 from it.  Callely’s fall fro grace in 2007 was cushioned by severance payments of €31,754 in 2007 and €17,465 in 2008.  These were based on 75% of his ministerial salary.  He also received a pension of €677 in 2007 and €8,986 in 2008.

Callely’s flaccid statement to Seanad Éireann on 2 June, indicated that the politicians’ expense regime is complex and there are anomalies in the system. If an expenses regime is so lacking in transparency how can the public have a scintilla of confidence in it?  If it is difficult to explain an expenses regime, designed by politicians for the benefit of themselves, in terms that the general public would regard as fair, reasonable and appropriate, that alone is a powerful argument against such a system.

Voters expect politicians to be personally responsible and accountable for the expenses they claim. They expect claims to be based only on the reimbursement of costs which are wholly, exclusively and unavoidably necessary in the performance of parliamentary duties. They also expect a level of integrity and verification that is characterised by high a standard of honesty and probity.

Voters will not tolerate politicians being personally enriched at public expense. Why, for example, should politicians be able to claim travel expenses in respect of journeys when they do not use their own vehicles, or are eligible for free travel on public transport? The concept of claiming travel expenses from a variety of widely dispersed personal addresses is indefensible and unacceptable.

If the Select Committee on Members’ Interests investigation determines that payments have been made on foot of expense claims which ought not to have been admissible they must  insist on the immediate reimbursement of such monies, plus interest, before considering other sanctions. By the end of May the cost of interest on the national debt was equivalent to 44% of all income tax revenues collected to date in 2010. If the Government intend to further penalise taxpayers is it not reasonable that issues, such as inadmissible politicians expenses, are fully and promptly resolved at no burden to the taxpayer?

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