MPs Expenses – 2 Versions

I don’t know about you but I’ve absolutely had enough of the sleaze and expenses furore from all parties in our illustrious government, Lords and Commoners alike.

I’m also quite (well extremely actually) fed up with the constant bashing that our public services (and the Police in particular) are taking at the hands of our politicians.

With naughtiness and mischief in mind I let loose an #FOI request to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority asking the following questions;

  • Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
  • What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
  • What is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been asked to pay back expenses previously  claimed but not prosecuted?

Quite simple one would think.  Oh no.

The reply that I got back was this;

IPSA does not hold the information that you request.IPSA began operations on 7 May 2010 and does not hold information relating to claims made or processed prior to that date.
Prior to 7 May 2010, the administration of business costs and expenses was the responsibility of the Department of Resources at the House of Commons. For information relating to claims made prior to 7 May 2010, you may wish to contact the House of Commons FOI team at the following email address:FOICommons@parliament.uk
.
Investigations that relate to business costs and expenses claimed for since May 2010 via IPSA’s Scheme are the responsibility of the Compliance Officer for IPSA, an office independent of IPSA and, for the purposes of the FOIA, a separate public authority. Details of the outcome of all investigations undertaken by the Compliance
Officer,including details of any repayments requested in relation to expenses previously claimed,are published on the Compliance Officer’s website and may be viewed via this link: http://www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk
.
We understand that no investigations conducted by the Compliance Officer for IPSA have resulted in prosecution.Investigations that relate to claims made prior to May 2010 via the House of Commons
Department of Resources are the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. For more information, you may wish to visit the Commissioner’s website via the following link:http://www.parliament.uk/pcs

So,apparently they don’t hold any archive material from before May 2010.

Well I bimbled on over to the Compliance Officer’s website as suggested, expecting to be absolutely inundated with data.

I dared to look up the investigations conducted by IPSA’s Compliance Officer.

For 2010 (post May obviously) I found NONE

For 2011 I found 21 in the 3rd Quarter of the year

For 2012 I found NONE.

In addition there are more comprehensive reports on investigations into Valerie Vaz and Nadine Dorries.

Just so that you don’t feel left out and frustrated I will reproduce one of the reports into an investigation chosen at random, you’ll like it;

Investigation summary
1.The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority carried
out an investigation into whether Ian Mearns MP was paid an amount under the MPs’ Expenses Scheme (the Scheme) that should not have been allowed.
2.The investigation was conducted in accordance with section 9(1) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (as amended by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act2010) (PSA).
3.The investigation was initiated by the Compliance Officer, as he had reason to believe
Mr Mearns may have received funding for claims relating to a website (www.ianmearns.org.uk) that did not comply with the rules of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) as set out in the Scheme.
4. On 11 April 2011 the Compliance Officer notified Mr Mearns that he was the subject of a preliminary investigation and on 23 June 2011 the Compliance Officer opened a substantive investigation into this matter.
5. On 23 August 2011, the Compliance Officer issued a Statement of Provisional Findings. This statement provides full details of the investigation. The findings are summarised below.
Findings
6. The Compliance Officer found:
a. that, in contravention of the rules of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme, Mr Mearns received reimbursement for claims
he submitted for costs relating to his website at a time when the website contained a party political logo;
b. that Mr Mearns acted swiftly to rectify the contravention;
c. that IPSA was in part at fault as its validation procedures should have prevented reimbursement being made;
d. that seeking a repayment for this contravention would be neither proportionate nor reasonable; and
e. that IPSA had strengthened its validation practices.
Resolution
7. On 7 September Mr Mearns confirmed by telephone that he accepted the provisional findings.
8. No further action was required either of Mr Mearns or of IPSA and on 21 September 2011 the investigation was closed.

An excellent write-up to an investigation I’m sure you’ll agree.  Yes, the MP did something wrong and claimed money he shouldn’t have but IPSA was at fault so we won’t ask him to pay it back.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read every single one of the 21 reports but the 3 or 4 that I have read ALL contained this phrase “that seeking a repayment for this contravention would be neither proportionate nor reasonable

So it seems to me that IPSA’s Compliance Officer is a bit of a toothless tiger, might give you a nasty suck but that’s about all.  Nothing there to instil fear into our trusted politicians.

You can probably imagine, I was not best pleased with the lack of information being provided.

So, undeterred I asked the same questions of the Metropolitan Police.

On this occasion they were happy to supply me with some information;

At Question 1 you ask
Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for
mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
The MPS response is:
All MPs were subject to an initial assessment.
16 MPs were then subject to an extended assessment or investigation.

At Question 2 you ask
What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
The MPS response is:
4 MPs were prosecuted and convicted.
1 MP was prosecuted but deemed unfit to be convicted.
1 MP is the subject to an ongoing prosecution.

At first glance it seems like the MPS investigations were somewhat more thorough than those of the IPSA Compliance officer.

Bottom line is though, there was a huge scandal over Parliamentary ‘Expenses’ which has never really gone away.  IPSA’s investigations don’t really justify the name and the Met seems to have as good a job as it can with the information it was provided with. BUT these people are the Law Makers. They have no excuse for breaking the Law. They should, above all people, understand the Law.  It is NOT ACCEPTABLE for IPSA to say “It’s our fault, blame us, we’ll take no action’.

This scandal shows no signs of going away. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution holds good.  They find other ways to get away with claiming dubious expenses.  Just look at the IPSA website and see the kind of claims that are being paid every week as acceptable.  Then come back and tell me they don’t have #SNOUTSINTHETROUGH.

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