Wednesday 22 November 2017

Junkets probe demand as Herald exposes costs

TWO Independent councillors have called for a full overhaul of conference travel after the Herald exposed the lax system that has been in place for years.

A Herald investigation revealed how more than €250,000 of taxpayers' funds was spent on jetting Dublin councillors to conferences both at home and abroad.

We also exposed how councillors who travel to foreign hotspots are not obliged to file a single report on their progress.

And many councillors that attended dozens of conferences here at home got away with filing two-sentence reports -- so they could receive their expenses.

Our investigation has now prompted two Independent city councillors to call for a full audit of the conferencing system.

Damian O'Farrell and Nial Ring -- who did not attend conferences last year -- have submitted a motion to the council's protocol committee requesting an independent review.

The motion states that in light of the "recent negative publicity surrounding councillors' conference travel expenses, it is incumbent on this committee to request an independent review, by way of internal audit, of the present procedures, structures and evaluation of this privilege".

The report adds that the "reputation and integrity" of councillors and the council itself must be the "foremost concern" of the protocol committee.

Cllr O'Farrell told the Herald that it was "plain wrong" for councillors to be going on "seemingly lavish long haul trips".

"There is a perception that Dublin City Council funds 'world travel' for councillors.

"The vast majority of councillors have never been on one trip abroad let alone several trips at the expense of the council. It's not acceptable, considering the times we are all living in, to read in the Evening Herald of the several seemingly lavish long haul trips abroad that some councillors are availing of. This is just plain wrong."

Cllr Ring added that he believed an audit would produce recommendations for reforming the system in place.

"I made a conscious decision when elected to the City Council that I would not partake in any conferences charging fees or overseas trips as I know from working in private industry that such facilities can be perceived as 'junkets'.

"An internal audit is the most effective way to check the integrity, transparency and non abuse of this facility.

"I expect that the report will come up with recommendations which will ensure that any conferences or trips undertaken will be properly evaluated and reviewed for their suitability, cost and benefit to the councillors partaking as well as to the city."


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