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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The elephant that refuses to leave the room

Having spent most of the day in meetings in London and then travelling back I have not had much time to post anything. However, on settling down today and perusing the web I was struck by one particular item.

The Daily Telegraph amongst others, reports that the failure of MPs to provide evidence to support nearly £14 million in claims has led the nation’s official auditor to refuse to sign off the accounts of the House of Commons.

They say that in a highly embarrassing move Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, found that the Commons authorities had failed to obtain receipts to justify £2.6 million in claims:

Another £11.3 million of expenditure had been incurred on items which the House could not prove was necessary for parliamentary purposes.

The gaps in the accounts were so serious that the NAO launched a full audit of Commons' allowances, after which MPs still failed to provide £800,000 of receipts.

As if that is not bad enough the same paper reports in a separate article that the Prime Minister has sought to placate angry Tory MPs by reforming the tough new expenses system, partly brought in to tackle this very problem:

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) would have to relax its grip by April 1, or face being reformed, he said.

A spokesman said: “The Prime Minister said he understood that Ipsa had caused pain and difficulty for colleagues. It is anti-family and it is not acceptable.

“There needs to be a better system in place by April 1 otherwise it will have to change. That can be through Ipsa recognising its shortcomings, or it can be it being changed. Either way, it will have to change.”

A Downing Street spokesman later added that Mr Cameron was concerned about the administrative burden on MPs of having to abide by the new rules.

He was also concerned that there were limits on the number of times MPs' children could travel with them to their constituencies at taxpayers' expense

As I have said on a number of occasions, MPs still do not get it. In contrast the Welsh Assembly has always required receipts, it has introduced a transparent and accountable system, reformed the whole allowances system and handed over the oversight of that system to an independent commission. A case of a devolved body showing how it should be done.
"Will 'they' never learn!"

Answer: "Apparently Not!"
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