LOCAL Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill who is under investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission for alleged duplication of expenses claims has now been forced to separately repay the Oireachtas €3,434 for wrongly claimed expenses.
Sentor Ó Domhnaill said the claims, found as a result of an audit, related to the holding of “clinics and constituency offices”. Senators are not allowed claim for such, since they are elected on vocational panels and not constituencies, as TDs are.
However, in reaction to the audit findings, he argued there was a “lack of clarity” and said “for being productive on the ground, you are being punished”. He also claimed he would have been allowed claim expenses incurred for holding one-to-one meetings, but not clinics.
The Gortahork based public representative asked the High Court last month to halt an investigation by SIPO in the alleged duplication of his previous expenses claims. These relate to travel and subsistence claims made between 2006 and 2007 when he was a county councillor. The SIPO investigation is not related to the findings of the audit.
It emerged on Friday, following an annual audit report of TDs and Senators that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin also had to repay €188 for wrongly claiming expenses. A total of five members of the Oireachtas repaid €4,992 in claims after the audit, which was carried out by Mazars.
The repaid claims are from 2012, and a total of 12 TDs and Senators were picked at random to have their claims checked to ensure they comply with Oireachtas rules.
The Mazars audit found four TDs – Mr Martin, Fine Gael’s Catherine Byrne and Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien and Michael Colreavy – repaid wrongly claimed expenses.
Senator Ó Domhnaill was the only member of the Upper House who had to do so, but he had to repay the largest amount.
The Mazars report said: “In our opinion the member was unable to show/receipts relevant documentation, within allowable expenditure categories for the PRA (public representational allowance) as set out in the legislation in respect of €3,434.30 claimed by him during the period under audit.
“The expenditure was ineligible as it was either not incurred in the relevant period, the expense category was not allowed for senators or was not applied wholly in respect of expenses specified in (standing orders).”
The separate SIPO action relates to an investigation concerning travel and subsistence claims made by Mr Ó Domhnaill between 2006 and 2007, when he was a member of Donegal County Council.