Sinn Féin cleared over Stormont expenses claims
THE Stormont authorities have said Sinn Féin MLAs did nothing wrong by claiming £700,000 in expenses to pay for research from a company run by the party's finance directors.
A total of 36 Sinn Féin representatives claimed the funds for work carried out by west Belfast company Research Services Ireland over a ten-year period. But a BBC investigation was unable to find any evidence of research carried out by the firm, whose directors included Séamus Drumm and Sinéad Walsh – both members of Sinn Féin's finance division.
The Assembly Commission has also cleared Sinn Féin of wrongdoing over claims for rent payments to three Co Tyrone cultural societies, whose origins and members remain unknown.
Sinn Féin has insisted it did nothing wrong, however, the assembly has since changed the rules governing expenses claims.
The Stormont authorities' decision not to claw back any of the money claimed came after TUV leader Jim Allister tabled a series of questions asking what action had been taken over two BBC Spotlight programmes broadcast in November 2014.
The Assembly Commission concluded that the claims for research and rent were "admissable".
"It is remarkable that the assembly would take such an attitude with taxpayers’ money without explaining how they reached the view that the expenditure was admissible," Mr Allister said.
"The BBC programme demonstrated large sums of public money was claimed in dubious circumstances, yet nothing has been done about it – little wonder Stormont is now a byword for not just failure but squander."
Answers to the TUV leader's questions also revealed that an investigation centred on a £4,000 claim for heating oil at the office of former DUP assembly speaker Willy Hay had yet to conclude. The Assembly Commission said "the judicial process is on-going".
It also emerged that no action will be taken by police over a £5,000 mileage claim submitted on behalf of former Sinn Féin MLA Davy Hyland, who could not drive.
The commission found the claim had not been processed "and as such no recovery was required".