The contest to select the next President of Ireland officially commences in the coming days as the deadline for candidates to submit their nomination papers expires on Wednesday.

But as contenders line up for the cameras at Dublin’s Customs House, as they officially enter the race, a row is brewing about examining spending at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Next week the Public Accounts Committee wants to scrutinise the expenditure despite an assurance that it is within budget.

Views within the committee are divided on whether it should engage in any probe just before an election.

Some committee members feel examining Áras an Uachtaráin’s finances could unfairly affect the current office holder, Michael D Higgins, who is seeking a second term as president.

Other candidates for the Presidency are not facing similar scrutiny.

However, some members of the committee argue the issue of expenditure by the office of the President is worthy of examination.

"There are practical questions to be asked, not about any president, [but] about the expenses and how they are used", said Independent TD Catherine Connolly.

She questioned whether the committee was "a little negligent" not to have examined the accounts - which are audited annually by the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - on a more regular basis.

Members of the PAC have already been sent a letter from Martin Fraser, Secretary General to the Government and Accounting Officer for the Office of the President, warning them their planned hearing was "unconstitutional".

Mr Fraser reminded them that the Office of the President is widely accepted to be "above politics" and quoted Article 13.8.1 of the Constitution in case of any doubt.

"The President shall not be answerable to either House of the Oireachtas or to any court for the exercise and performance of the power and functions of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of these powers and functions."

For this reason, the Office of the President remains exempt from the Freedom of Information.

So far six candidates are contesting in next month's election

And so when it comes to the spending at Áras an Uachtaráin, we have to take the word of the Comptroller and Auditor General that all is well.

Some have questioned why the Office of the President should be exempt from Freedom of Information when all other public monies are subject to scrutiny.

Now, the Public Accounts Committee feels it is time to carry out further scrutiny.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc McSharry took umbrage at Mr Fraser’s suggestion that the committee could be acting outside its remit.

Mr McSharry pointed out that the committee was not seeking to question the powers and the functions of the office, merely its spending.

He said the "tone of the letter did bother me", claiming that the Secretary General is seeking to influence the remit of the PAC.

But what about influencing the campaign? Fine Gael TD Peter Burke asked, noting that it was already well under way, despite the fact that nominations do not close until next Wednesday.

The committee's chair, Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said the questions would be kept strictly to how money is spent and will not be directed toward President Michael D Higgins personally.

Labour TD Alan Kelly told Mr Fleming that the hearing risked damaging the committee, and there would be no turning back once proceedings started.

"It will be impossible for you, chair, to unsay things that will be said in here that will be linked to a candidate who is currently in office," Mr Kelly said.

Fianna Fáil's Bobby Aylward had a simple question - had the President's Office ever run over budget?

 "No" was the answer. Actually it comes in 10% under budget, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy, responded.

"There hasn't been an excess expenditure on the President's vote any year. They are coming in under budget. Normally they would have a surrender of maybe around 10% I think was the figure for 2016," Mr McCarthy said.

Outside the committee, the leader of Mr Fleming’s party, Micheál Martin was warning against the hearing.

"People will read all sorts of agendas into discussing it now," he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also weighed in, raising concerns over the timing of any such hearing during an election campaign.

Mr Fraser - who as Accounting Officer would be answering the questions before PAC - indicated in his letter to members that he may have to seek legal advice from the Attorney General.

That means his appearance in front of the committee is far from certain.