MPs’ Expenses Part II

Hey Kev, What’s in the shed?  A Shed Load of Cash for your MP is what’s in the Shed, and make no mistake.

Yesterday’s post was more about the headline figures and big numbers, today I thought I’d have a look at the small numbers,  I find that you can tell almost as much about an MP by what they claim for, as well as how much they have claimed in total.

Before I get to that though, what about IPSA themselves. How transparent are they really?

Back in July I asked them the following under the Freedom of Information Act;

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

The main thrust of their response was this;

We understand that no investigations conducted by the Compliance Officer for IPSA have resulted in prosecution
The remainder of their answer was a complete cop-out, don’t ask us, ask someone else.
So yesterday I hit them with this one;
Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act could you please supply me with the following information;How many of your staff are qualified in Accountancy?How many of your staff are qualified as Auditors?What level of proactive auditing is conducted by yourselves, or an external body, into matters which are the responsibility of IPSA, such as MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses?”
Quite simple, not much wriggle-room really. Can’t think of a single reason why they shouldn’t answer it, but I’m sure they’ll think of one.

While I’m waiting for their response I thought it would be good fun to look at the very latest data available for 2013/14 re MPs’ Expenses and examine some of the trivia.  As this is a public document I have absolutely no problem with Naming and Shaming.

The document contains 10,500 rows of data, a mere trifle really.

1,570 claims were for less than a fiver.  Nearly 15% of MPs’ Expenses claims are for less than a fiver! Does that tell us anything?

Sharon Hodgson MP claimed £4.44 for Maintaining Office Equipment, that’s official speak for Water Cooler Rental.

Nick Gibb MP had two consecutive claims of £2.25 for Computer Hardware Purchase (item not specified)

Nick Smith MP claimed 0.68p (yes, 68 pence) for his Vodafone usage March to April

Chuka Umunna MP claimed 40 pence for a pint of milk for a meeting.  He/She has also claimed for Coffee, Sugar and Water on separate occasions.

Nadine Dorries, the MP that keeps on giving, claimed £2.10 for an assortment of Highlighter pens.  Doesn’t the House of Commons have a stationery cupboard?

I’m sure you’re getting the picture.

David Cameron’s claims seem to consist mainly claiming back 25% contributions towards his Parliamentary Assistant’s mobile phone bill.

Gorgeous George Osborne has only made two claims, for rental of his Blackberry.

Our old friend Cruella doesn’t seem to claim expenses.

All pretty mundane really, and the full document is readily available from the IPSA website, my point is this;

What a greedy bunch they must be if they have to claim for pints of milk and highlighter pens etc.  There are loads more examples but I’m sure you don’t want to read all of them.  If they have spent the money then I presume that rules entitle them to claim the money back, although I’m sure in the case of milk, highlighter pens etc, other suitable alternatives were probably available.  I just have difficulty, from a personal point of view, understanding the mentality of someone on a hefty salary actually bothering to reclaim 40 pence, but I mustn’t criticise too heftily for following the rules.

Out of 10,500 claims for Expenses only ONE was unpaid, because it did not come under the Expenses Scheme, and that was by Harriett Baldwin MP, for £45 in relation to a  Bryansk delegation.  Bryansk is apparently a city in Russia, known for steel and machinery manufacture amongst other things.

Just like yesterday, if you want to know what YOUR MP is claiming for, ask me nicely and I might just tell you, or you can download the whole picture from the IPSA website.

I can’t help thinking though, that it’s time the whole system was overhauled again, with proper external, independent scrutiny and accountability.  Self-Regulation just doesn’t seem to be working. Parliament seem to think that they can change Terms and Conditions at will, let them have some of it please.

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