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Pay to TDs and Senators cost taxpayer €19.4m last year

The cost to the taxpayer of funding the salaries of all TDs and Senators in Leinster House last year increased by 4.5% to €19.4m.

That is according to the 2018 annual report of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission where the total gross bill for all Oireachtas activities in 2018 totalled €134.35m.

The spend represents a €21.66m - or 19% - increase on the €112.68m spend for 2017.

The largest contributor to the increased spend was a €22.7m spend on office equipment and external IT services - the €22.7m spend represents a 55% or €8.1m overspend on the €14.63m allocated under that heading at the start of 2018.

A note attached to the accounts that the ‘variation’ relates to approved additional expenditure for digital transformation and modernisation projects and the renewal of software licences for three years.

The annual report shows that the cost of funding the activities of the 158 members of Dáil Eireann last year totalled €43.69m.

This was made up of €15.25m in salaries for the TDs; €20.4m in payments to secretarial assistance to TDs; travel and accommodation allowances of €2.92m; public representation allowances of €2.93m and ‘other allowances’ of €2.15m.

In addition, the cost of funding the activities of members of the Seanad last year totalled €9.1m and this was made up of €4.15m in salaries of Senators; €2.8m in payments to secretarial assistance to senators; €1.14m in travel and accommodation allowances; €628,000 in public representation allowance and €307,000 in ‘other allowances’.

The accounts also confirm that the Gardaí are currently investigating one case of alleged fraud in relation to a salary incremental claim over a period of 18 months.

The note states that “there is insufficient information available to categorise the incident or provide a financial estimate while investigations are ongoing”.

It adds: “The service will continue to make every effort to recover exchequer funds where fraud or irregularities have occurred.”

The accounts also disclose that profits at the Dáil bars and restaurants last year declined by 7% from €139,047 to €128,224.

The drop in profits came in spite of revenues at the Oireachtas's catering and bar services increasing by €51,253 from €1.25m to €1.3m.

The catering and bar services incurred €766,519 in cost of sales resulting in a gross profit of €535,192 and expenses of €406,978 resulted in the profit of €128,224.

Staff costs funded by Oireachtas Commission for the Dáil bars and restaurants last year totalled €1.67m.

The Oireachtas last year spent €547,000 on legal costs in respect of claims against it concerning nine cases with six cases brought by staff members and three by members of the public.

The staff costs at the House of the Oireachtas Service increased by 9.5% to €31.22m with the number of staff employed increasing from 546 to 564.

The accounts disclose that the Commission identified 42 individuals with payroll overpayments totalling €35,500 that included 27 individuals where €15,964 has been fully repaid; five individuals owing €7,535 where recovery arrangements are in place and 10 owing €12,001 who did not have a recovery arrangement in place.

The parliamentary printing bill totalled €614,000 - almost half of the €1.17 million budgeted for - a note attached to the accounts states that the €563,000 underspend arose due to a lower than anticipated demand for printing and a delay in the production of bound volumes.

Library and research services totalled €651,000 while public relations and communications costs totalled €254,000.

The cost of televising proceedings at the Dáil and Seanad and other services during the year totalled €4.86m.

The cost of funding the pension scheme for past Oireachtas members last year totalled €11.7m.