A TD or Senator has run up significant bills by making dozens of expensive calls to a single African number yet confidentiality rules prohibit the Oireachtas from finding out who is responsible.

The calls to the phone – dozens of them each year – are consistently among the most costly made from Leinster House.

However, laws that grant politicians complete privacy in their offices mean nothing can be done to identify who is responsible.

Records released by the Oireachtas show that the Kenyan mobile was the destination number for 38 out of the 100 most expensive calls during late 2011 and 2012.

In 2013, the number of calls to the phone reduced somewhat, but it still remained responsible for 16 out of the 100 most expensive calls made that year.

Authorities at Leinster House are powerless to contact the politician’s office responsible to ask them to cut down the cost or to use a free service like Skype.

They have however, been able to contact the owner of the Kenyan mobile number but have said they are prohibited by law from finding out what TD or Senator is responsible.

An RTÉ reporter sought public release of the phone number in a Freedom of Information appeal to the Information Commissioner.

However, the Commissioner agreed with Leinster House authorities who had stated that the number should not be released.

The review of the Information Commissioner stated that the phone number did not belong to an Irish person working abroad or one that was working in an official government capacity.

A decision said that the Oireachtas was satisfied that the Kenyan number is a ‘local mobile number of a personal phone of a private person’.

The investigator found that the mobile number was therefore the ‘personal information of the individual recipient of the telephone calls’.

‘In this instance, the person concerned has not given consent to the release of his/her mobile phone number,’ the report said.

The Information Commissioner decision said that while there was a strong public interest in ensuring openness and accountability in the spending of public money, the right to privacy of an individual was even stronger.

It pointed out that the person responsible for making the calls – the TD or Senator involved – would not actually be identified by release of the number, only the Kenyan person who received them.

The Houses of the Oireachtas has said that all public representatives are entitled by law to make free telephone calls from Leinster House.

They also explained that they keep no record of the origin of the calls, even though phones of other civil servants working in the building are logged.

‘In view of their roles as parliamentarians and public representatives under the Constitution, calls made by members are not logged by our phone system for reasons of privacy and confidentiality,’ they said.

‘As the Houses of the Oireachtas Service does not log calls from Members’ handsets it has no way of categorically stating whether a specific member is responsible for making or mandating any of the calls in the ... lists supplied.’

They conceded that calls from civil service staff are logged and monitored and that refunds of costs had been sought where there was ‘significant use which appears unrelated to the work of the service’.

The use of phones in Leinster House has already been the subject of considerable controversy.

In 2011, the late Kerry TD Jackie Healy-Rae paid back more than €2,500 after hundreds of calls were made from the Dail to the RTE reality TV show Celebrities Go Wild where his son Michael was a contestant.

Mr Healy-Rae paid back the money even though there was no way officially of linking the calls back to him, and some of the calls - at the very least - were made by other politicians, who were in on the ruse.

The possibility of TDs and Senators abusing their private phones has been raised in internal memos within the Houses of the Oireachtas.

A report at one stage said calls to a small number of phones were costing €14,000 annually and it was ‘difficult to imagine’ what official business they related to.

Details of the 100 most expensive calls made in 2013, which have been released to RTÉ, show that in total they cost €1,603.

The most expensive by far was a one hour call that was made to a number in Qatar on December 12, which ended up costing €60.45.

You can read the decision made by the Information Commissioner regarding release of the Kenyan phone number here:

By Ken Foxe (@kenfoxe)

2012

Country Seconds Duration Date Cost

Colombia

  3,828.30 

1:03:48

21-MAY-12 14:28:00

€94.79

Colombia

  3,475.60 

57:56

03-JAN-12 13:02:54

€86.06

Kenya 

  3,211.20 

53:31

14-AUG-12 16:46:31

€79.51

Mozambique

  3,257.60 

54:18

30-AUG-12 14:34:29

€76.01

Kenya 

  2,970.20 

49:30

07-JUN-12 19:38:00

€73.54

Kenya 

  2,964.60 

49:25

18-SEP-12 17:12:40

€73.40

Kenya 

  2,927.30 

48:47

21-FEB-12 18:09:07

€72.48

Kenya 

  2,933.10 

48:53

22-NOV-11 19:22:36

€72.62

Kenya 

  2,586.80 

43:07

12-APR-12 09:46:09

€64.05

Kenya 

  2,481.30 

41:21

19-APR-12 10:43:35

€61.44

Colombia

  2,400.60 

40:01

02-APR-12 16:35:16

€59.44

Kenya 

  2,196.70 

36:37

27-SEP-12 18:17:58

€54.39

Cyprus

  5,106.80 

1:25:07

28-AUG-12 09:26:56

€53.62

Colombia

  2,137.10 

35:37

03-FEB-12 14:46:01

€52.91

Colombia

  2,066.90 

34:27

12-OCT-12 14:48:22

€51.18

Kenya 

  2,045.80 

34:06

26-JUN-12 21:33:27

€50.65

Kenya 

  2,014.50 

33:35

29-NOV-11 21:39:32

€49.88

Kenya 

  1,837.20 

30:37

21-MAR-12 20:07:14

€45.49

Brazil

  1,897.60 

31:38

17-AUG-12 13:35:53

€44.28

UAE

  2,968.80 

49:29

10-OCT-12 10:35:53

€43.98

2013

Country Seconds Duration Date Cost

Qatar number 1

3,627

1.01

12/9/13

€60.45

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:35:47

1/17/13 9:36

€45.17

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:36:22

5/2/13 16:35

€43.28

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:32:15

2/20/13 14:55

€40.73

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:28:49

7/11/13 18:17

€34.30

Directory enquiries

1,407

0.39

8/12/13

€29.62

China Mobile - number 1

 

0:37:43

4/15/13 10:37

€28.49

Bulgaria Mobile - number 2

 

0:53:08

5/8/13 18:25

€28.45

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:22:31

2/21/13 13:00

€28.43

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:22:07

2/21/13 12:37

€27.92

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:22:07

3/27/13 20:31

€27.92

Kenya Mobile - Number 1

 

0:19:26

2/8/13 15:59

€24.53

Directory enquiries

 

0:27:33

3/8/13 14:48

€23.38

Brazil number 2

 

0:19:35

6/21/13 16:39

€23.30

UAE number 3

 

0:30:22

2/18/13 20:00

€22.96

Australia number 3

 

0:46:15

6/25/13 14:36

€21.97

Directory enquiries

1,019

0.28

7/23/13

€21.79

Dublin

 

19:38:22

5/27/13 17:11

€21.21

Croatia Mobile

 

0:37:42

3/27/13 19:03

€21.16

Dublin

 

18:55:33

2/7/13 16:58

€20.43