Belfast Telegraph

DUP MP Shannon to be investigated again over parliamentary expenses

Jim Shannon
Jim Shannon

By Gillian Halliday

A DUP MP who has the biggest expenses bill in Parliament is to be investigated by the parliamentary spending watchdog for the second time in three years.

Jim Shannon was paid nearly £240,000 in taxpayer-funded expenses including office and staffing costs last year - around £90,000 higher than the average MP.

According to official records, Mr Shannon claimed £51,000 in total travel costs in 2017-18 alone - equivalent to £4,250 a month.

Broken down nearly £21,000 of the overall figure was for staff travel costs.

Yesterday it emerged Mr Shannon's mileage claims for the past two financial years are to be scrutinised by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

According to the Daily Telegraph, the formal probe has been launched by its compliance officer, Tracy Hawkings, who received a complaint from Ipsa. A breakdown of 2017-18 expense claims - as recorded by the IPSA - show that the DUP member spent £150,064.02.

A DUP spokesperson revealed the mileage claims probed for the same period total nearly £21k, adding that Mr Shannon, who is MP for Strangford, is confident his expenses will stand up to scrutiny.

"His 2017-18 mileage claim was £5,369.25 and his staff mileage was £15,587.80," they said. "He will co-operate fully with the Ipsa investigation and justify each and every claim. As an MP with a rural peninsula constituency and a very heavy workload he is confident all mileage claims are valid."

Mr Shannon's mileage expenses for 2018-19 were not available yesterday on the Ipsa website.

The investigation is not the first time Mr Shannon has come under scrutiny for his expenses.

In 2016 the former MLA - who at the time also had the highest Parliamentary expense bill - was ordered to repay nearly £14,000 in mileage claims. The repayment came after a probe conducted by Ipsa determined "unusually high" mileage claims.

The latest investigation has been prompted by a complaint to Ms Hawkings - a former Detective Chief Superintendent - by Ipsa which raised concerns over Mr Shannon's travel bills.

In 2014-15 the MP claimed nearly £60,000 for travel which at the time Ipsa attributed the incorrect claims down to "a number of errors", rather than fraud.

The authority also reported that Mr Shannon accepted that he was "paid an amount under the MPs' allowances scheme that should not have been allowed".

The NI Affairs Committee member has also had his official parliamentary credit card, used for expenses, suspended 13 times over the past four years, the Daily Telegraph also reported.

The suspensions - which in accordance with procedures are carried out after at least two formal warnings - were made known via data released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Parliamentary credit cards can be suspended when MPs fail to provide receipts to justify claims within the 30-day timeframe or spending is detected that fails to comply with the rules.

It can also be suspended if money owed to the taxpayer for ineligible claims is not repaid.

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