Up to 1,100 allowances reviewed by Public Accounts Committee

Wednesday 21 November 2012 22.22
Levels of expenses or allowances payable to politicians should be determined independently or vouched
Levels of expenses or allowances payable to politicians should be determined independently or vouched

A draft report seen by RTÉ News recommends a major overhaul to public sector allowances.

Following a committee examination of allowances paid to public servants, findings revealed that there were 1,100 types of allowances available.

The committee recommends that levels of expenses or allowances payable to politicians should be determined independently or vouched from the beginning of next year.

Last year, politicians received almost €1.4m in unvouched payments under the allowances for public representations and secretarial assistance.

From 1 January 2013, PAC recommends that all payments of allowances to Members of the Oireachtas should be on the sole basis of vouched or verified payments.

Three types of politicians' allowances examined:

It notes that there are three kinds of allowances, there are those paid to cover expenses arising in the course of parliamentary duties.

The second type of allowance is for specific duties undertaken by certain TDs or senators.

The third type of allowance is paid in the public interest to support political parties and independent members.

PAC also calls for an independent review of the Party Leaders Allowance, which cost the state almost €8m in 2011.

It also calls for an independent review of the system of allowances payable for specified positions in the Dáil, Seanad, Oireachtas Commission and Committees.

The estimated cost of such allowances this year is just over €325,000.

The report states: "The travel and accommodation payment is subject to verification based on an attendance management system with the rates calculated on the basis of distance between the principal residence of the member and Leinster House.

“The Committee does not regard this payment as unvouched as it is a structured way of applying the public service travel and subsistence rules whose administration requires review.

“The Committee is of the view that all payments relating to expenses should be on the basis of a vouched claim or be subject to verification.”

Education 

The report suggests that pay structures in education should be reviewed to streamline the system.

It suggests that many of the 339 allowances currently in the system should be removed.

The PAC found that 16% of the overall teachers' pay bill comprises of allowances.

Proposals of pay-banding were put forward for management grades and extra duty posts.

It suggests that teachers’ pay scale should be reviewed to introduce a long service increment for teachers with 35 years service.

This proposal would eliminate an allowance which was paid to 2,324 teachers last year.

The education sector costs €5.116bn which includes costs for schools, institutes of technology, universities and VECs.

Allowances account for €639m or 12.5% of the overall pay allocation.

Teachers received €616m equating to 96% of all allowances paid in the education sector.

Prison service

The PAC recommends that many allowances in the prison service should be reclassified and streamlined to avoid situations where staff receive multiple allowances.

It discovered that 136 allowances are payable in the Prison Service which employs almost 3,500 staff.

It notes that on average, each prison officer received 14 allowances.

It cites one instance where a nurse officer received 18 different allowances, while an assistant governor received 17 allowances.

There are 12 different types of allowance for night duty alone.

The Committee recommends that the pensionable rent allowance worth between €3,806 and €4,229 a year should not be paid to new recruits.

It says the pay gap that would result from this should be addressed by allowing new recruits to start at a higher point on the pay scale.

Gardaí

The Committee found that 20% of the Garda pay bill went on payments due under 108 allowances.

The Public Accounts Committee has said that extra payments of up to €60,000 a year for individual gardaí are not sustainable in the long term.

On average 30% of garda pay is made up of overtime and allowances, rising to almost 37% for inspectors.

Four inspectors earned more than €60,000 in extra remuneration while ten earned more than €55,000.

Some 30 allowances have not been approved for new recipients.

The committee noted that many allowances totalling almost €125m were effectively premium payments for round the clock working arrangements.

The PAC recommends a review of what constitutes the working week.

The rent allowance of just over €4,000 a year is paid to all members below the rank of assistant commissioner.

It is now subject to review under Croke Park - and will not be paid to new recruits.

The PAC says any resulting pay gap between incumbents and new recruits could be addressed by allow the new entrants to start at a higher point on the pay scale.

Consultants

The role of hospital consultants who receive a Clinical Directors Allowance of €46,000 a year should be reviewed to ensure that they are fully committed to public service.

59 consultants receive the allowance in 2011, but under the terms of their contracts, some can continue to engage in private practice.

The report says the issue for the committee is that the management and leadership obligations of the role should entail that those clinical directors are wholly focussed on the delivery of services within the public health system.

The committee recommends that the HSE should review the role and performance of clinical directors in the context of commitments of post holders to private practice and should seek where possible to have post holders commit fully to public service.

It also recommends that HSE payroll systems must be improved significantly to allow oversight and detailed information on pay, overtime and allowances paid to HSE staff and employees in the voluntary sector.

The PAC also acknowledges that for those on low pay, allowances comprise a large percentage of their pay and should be protected.

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