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Assembly expenses: Possible charges over Lord Hay expenses inquiry

File sent to Public Prosecution Service after PSNI probe into claims for heating oil made in Lord Hay's name.

By Christopher Woodhouse

Published 16/02/2016

Clear conscience: Lord Hay conducted his own internal investigation into expenses claims.
Clear conscience: Lord Hay conducted his own internal investigation into expenses claims.

Criminal charges could be brought over expenses claims made in the name of the former Assembly Speaker Lord William Hay.

Sunday Life can reveal that the PSNI has finished an investigation into allegations that centred on bills for heating oil at his constituency office in Londonderry.

Officers have now sent a file to the Public Prosecution Service to decide if charges should follow.

In September 2014, Lord Hay revealed that he had called in police and alerted Assembly authorities after discovering irregularities.

He said: “This followed my own investigation after an irregular trend in payments from my Office Cost Expenditure, which I had not previously noticed, had been brought to my attention.”

The peer - then a DUP MLA - also suspended a member of staff - understood to be his brother-in-law Bill Irwin.

The claims were later featured in a BBC Spotlight programme which examined expense claims made by Assembly members.

It was revealed that in the year 2012/13, £4,355 was claimed in Lord Hay’s name for heating oil - which had risen from £265 over the previous 10 years.

There is no suggestion that Mr Irwin has done anything wrong and Lord Hay stated that his conscience was clear over the matter.

The development comes after an investigation by the Assembly Commission cleared Sinn Fein’s finance managers of any wrongdoing over claims totalling £700,000 for research costs.

The money was paid for work carried out by Research Services Ireland Ltd (RSI) for 36 Sinn Fein MLAs over a 10-year period.

However one Sinn Fein MLA told the BBC Spotlight team they hadn’t heard of the firm until it appeared on their expense claim form.

The journalists were unable to find evidence of research carried out by the company.

On Friday the Assembly Commission said the claims were admissible and they would not seek to recover any money from the party.

It also found no evidence of wrong-doing over claims for constituency office rent paid to three cultural societies.

Among the claims was £18,000 in rent paid to South Derry Cultural and Heritage Society for the constituency office of Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill in Gulladuff, near Maghera.

TUV MLA Jim Allister branded the commission’s findings “bizarre”.

“It is remarkable that the Assembly would take such an attitude without explaining how they reached the view that the expenditure was ‘admissible’,” he told the BBC.

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