Political staff paid nearly €500,000 for overtime in lockdown
Leinster House as seen from Molesworth Street. Picture: Doug.ie
September 07 2020 02:30
TDs and senators signed off on almost €500,000 in overtime claims for their political staff during a four-month period in which the Dáil only sat eight times and the Seanad only met on three occasions.
Almost €1m was paid to politicians’ secretaries and parliamentary assistants in overtime in the first seven months of this year, including €262,431 during the Government’s “stay-at-home” restrictions between March 27 and May 18.
A total of €58,004 was also paid out in respect of overtime between January 14 and February 20, during which the Dáil had been dissolved and the General Election was held.
Secretaries and parliamentary assistants are employed by individual TDs and senators, but they are paid directly by the Houses of the Oireachtas. Some politicians employ family members in the roles.
Overtime claims are submitted weekly and require approval only from the relevant politician.
A maximum of eight hours’ overtime per week can be paid to each employee at a rate of up to 1.5 times their hourly pay.
Of the 5,266 overtime claims submitted during the seven-month period, 3,612 or 70pc were for the maximum eight hours.
Records released under freedom of information laws reveal that €89,953 was paid to political staff in respect of 526 overtime claims in January, when the Seanad sat just once and the Dáil did not sit at all.
Overtime payments in February amounted to €64,139 in respect of 353 claims during a month in which the Dáil sat once and there were no meetings of the Seanad.
In March, when the Dáil sat three times and the Seanad sat twice, a total of €160,533 was paid to political staff in respect of 858 claims.
In April, the Seanad remained closed but the Dáil sat four times, albeit with a reduced number of TDs. A total of €125,489 was paid to secretaries and assistants in respect of 704 claims.
Between January 5 and May 3, €474,674 was paid in overtime to political staff. The Dáil sat eight times, while the Seanad met three times.
Leinster House was closed at times due to the pandemic.
The overtime bill for political staff during the first seven months this year came to a total of €951,505.
The payments are subject to almost no scrutiny by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
A spokeswoman said an audit was conducted each November, but this merely monitored whether staff were close to exceeding the maximum of 48 weeks’ overtime per annum.