Belfast Telegraph

President’s expenditure under budget throughout first term – review

Michael D Higgins’s office has published a Presidential Review for the first time since the presidency was established in 1938.

Michael D Higgins has published a Presidential Review of his first term (Niall Carson/ PA)
Michael D Higgins has published a Presidential Review of his first term (Niall Carson/ PA)

The President’s expenditure was under budget for each of the seven years of Michael D Higgins’s first term, a new review has said.

President Higgins’s office published a Presidential Review on Thursday for the first time since the presidency was established in 1938.

The President, who was elected in October by a landslide majority, has produced what his office calls a “comprehensive overview of the work and expenditure of the Office of the President of Ireland over the last seven years”.

This is the first time such a review has been published and follows a commitment to greater transparency made by President Higgins during the election campaign.

The 77-year-old poet and broadcaster came under fire for lack of openness during his first term in office, with regards to media requests and presidential expenditure.

The review states that Voted Expenditure for the Office of the President was under budget for each of the seven years of President Higgins’s first term.

In line with his campaign commitments, the Presidential Review also provides information on the 1938 Allowance, an annual allowance of 317,000 euro established by the Presidential Establishment Act 1938.

The allowance became a source of much furore during the campaign after it was revealed in a Public Accounts Committee that the presidential allowance had gone unaudited for a number of years.

Aras an Uachtarain confirmed that a 238,443 euro underspend from the 1938 Allowance would be returned to the Exchequer by the end of the year – a cumulative underspend from the 2011-2018 period of the presidency.

The Aras also confirmed that the process of establishing an independent committee to provide oversight of the 1938 Allowance was well under way.

The current level of the allowance was set in 1998, and it has been used since then to facilitate the opening up of Aras an Uachtarain to increasing numbers of visitors from all parts of Ireland and from abroad.

During the first term of his presidency, President Higgins welcomed approximately 140,000 people to the official residence.

The Aras has also said that a finance oversight committee will be in place from early next year and will meet regularly.

The document titled The Presidency In Review 2011-2018 consists of 51 pages, a large amount of photographs of the President himself, with five pages dedicated to finance and expenditure.

The Presidential Review will now be published each year during President Higgins’s second term.

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