Session: 2012/2013

Date: 19 September 2012

Reference: NIA 63/11-15

ISBN: 978-0-339-60440-7

Mandate Number: 2011/15 Second Report

Committee: Standards and Privileges

8814.pdf (1.39 mb)

Together with the Report of the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards, the
complaint received and Minutes of Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report

Ordered by The Committee on Standards and Privileges to be printed on 19 September 2012
Report: NIA 63/11-15 Standards and Privileges Committee

Mandate 2011/15 Second Report

Committee Powers and Membership

1. The Committee on Standards and Privileges is a Standing Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly established in accordance with paragraph 10 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Assembly Standing Order Nos. 51 and 57.

2. The Committee has power:

  • to consider specific matters relating to privilege referred to it by the Assembly;
  • to oversee the work of the Assembly Clerk of Standards;
  • to examine the arrangement for the compilation, maintenance and accessibility of the Register of Members' Interests and any other registers of interest established by the Assembly, and to review from time to time the form and content of those registers;
  • to consider any specific complaints made in relation to the registering or declaring of interests referred to it;
  • to consider any matter relating to the conduct of Members, including specific complaints in relation to alleged breaches of any code of conduct to which the Assembly has agreed and which have been drawn to the Committee's attention;
  • to recommend any modifications to any Assembly code of conduct as may from time to time appear to be necessary.

3. The Committee is appointed at the start of every Assembly, and has power to send for persons, papers and records that are relevant to its enquiries.

4. The membership of the Committee is as follows:

Mr Alastair Ross (Chairperson)
Mr Kieran McCarthy (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Steven Agnew
Mr Cathal Boylan
Ms Paula Bradley
Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr Colum Eastwood[1]
Mr Francie Molloy[2] [3]
Mr Fra McCann
Mr David McIlveen
Mrs Sandra Overend[4]

5. The Report and evidence of the Committee are published by the Stationery Office by order of the Committee. All publications of the Committee are posted on the Assembly's website: (www.niassembly.gov.uk.)

6. All correspondence should be addressed to the Clerk to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, Committee Office, Northern Ireland Assembly, Room 254, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3XX. Tel: 02890 520333; e-mail: committee.standards&privileges@niassembly.gov.uk

[1] With effect from 23 April 2012 Mr Colum Eastwood replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.

[2] With effect from 3 July 2012 Mr Alex Maskey replaced Mr Pat Doherty.

[3] With effect from 11th September 2012 Mr Francie Molloy replaced Mr Alex Maskey.

[4] With effect from 26 September 2011 Mrs Sandra Overend replaced Mr Michael Copeland.

Table of Contents

Report 1

Appendix 1

Report by the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards 5

Appendix 2

Proceedings of the Committee Relating to the Report 23

Report

1. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has considered a report from Dr Tom Frawley in his former capacity as the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards. The report is on an investigation into a complaint made by Mr Jason Johnston against Mr David McIlveen MLA. Dr Frawley's report and the complaint from Mr Johnston are appended to this report.

2. Mr McIlveen is a member of the Committee on Standards and Privileges. However Mr McIlveen withdrew from committee proceedings in relation to this complaint and has had no input to the Committee's consideration and deliberations.

3. Mr Johnston's complaint related to Mr McIlveen's Office Cost Expenditure (OCE) in 2011/12. The purpose of OCE, as set out in the Northern Ireland Assembly Financial Support for Members Handbook[1], is to meet the expenditure wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred by a Member on secretarial, clerical or administrative assistance (including the associated provision of any equipment, facilities or services) in carrying out his/her Assembly Duties.

4. Paragraph 9.3.1 of the Handbook states that:

"The reasonable cost of purchasing office furniture, additional computers (hardware and software), printers, modest digital cameras, photocopiers, fax machines, telephones, radios and televisions may be met from OCE. Any equipment purchased is only to be used to assist a Member in performing his/her Assembly duties and must not be used by family members or for party political activities. Equipment purchased should be available for scrutiny by internal or external audit review."

5. The Northern Ireland Assembly publishes on its website the detail of Assembly Members' total OCE with a breakdown of individual claims made.

6. In his complaint Mr Johnston alleged that Mr McIlveen had claimed for two tablet computers (Apple iPads) within a period of seven months. Mr Johnston included with his complaint some details from the Assembly's website in respect of Mr McIlveen's Office Cost Expenditure in 2011/12. These details included a claim in the Capital – IT Equipment Purchase category for a transaction of £479.00 on 24 May 2011 described as "Apple – iPad" and a subsequent claim in the same category for a transaction of £239.00 on 19 December 2011 which was also described as "Apple – iPad".

7. Mr Johnston argued that a Member could only use one such device at a time. For this reason Mr McIlveen's claims seemed to Mr Johnston to be an excessive use of public money. Mr Johnston alleged that Mr McIlveen's conduct in this regard breached the Assembly's Code of Conduct. In particular Mr Johnston highlighted the section of the Code on Public Duty.

8. In fact the Assembly's Code of Conduct also contains a specific rule which covers Members and their use of OCE. The rule states:

"No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes and the administrative rules applying to such payments, allowances and resources must be strictly observed."

9. Dr Frawley has established through his investigation that Mr McIlveen has not possessed at any time two iPads. Mr McIlveen has explained that he purchased an iPad through his OCE on 24 May 2011 but that this iPad was subsequently damaged beyond repair. Mr McIlveen therefore replaced the damaged iPad with a new one. The cost of this replacement was met through OCE. In his report Dr Frawley advises that Mr McIlveen has referred to a scheme operated by Apple whereby the cost of a replacement iPad is offset by the residual value of a damaged iPad. Mr McIlveen has explained that this accounts for the difference in the cost incurred in May 2011 and that in December 2011.

10. Dr Frawley had verified Mr McIlveen's explanation through an examination of Mr McIlveen's relevant expenses claim forms and associated supporting documentation. These were provided to Dr Frawley by the Clerk to the Assembly and are included in Dr Frawley's report.

11. In his report Dr Frawley concludes that Mr McIlveen's expenditure on the two Apple iPads within a seven month period was properly incurred and that his claims for reimbursement of his expenditure on them were properly made. Dr Frawley consequently does not consider that Mr McIlveen's conduct constitutes a breach of the Assembly Code.

12. The Committee agrees with Dr Frawley's assessment. The complaint is therefore not upheld.

13. Dr Frawley goes on to point out that the published details on the Assembly's website do not indicate that Mr McIlveen's claim in December 2011 was in relation to the replacement of a damaged iPad. Dr Frawley suggests that the Committee may wish to raise with the Assembly Commission the need to ensure that the nature of expenditure incurred by and reimbursed to Members is recorded as fully and accurately as possible.

14. The Committee has agreed to refer this suggestion to the Assembly Commission for consideration.

[1] http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/Documents/Your_MLAs/Financial-Support-For-Members-Handbook.pdf

Appendix 1

Report from the
interim Assembly Commissioner

for Standards

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Appendix 2

Proceedings of the Committee Relating
to the Report

Wednesday, 19th September 2012
Room 21, Parliament Buildings

Present: Mr Alastair Ross (Chairperson)
Mr Kieran McCarthy (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Steven Agnew
Mr Cathal Boylan
Ms Paula Bradley
Mr Colum Eastwood
Mr Fra McCann
Mr David McIlveen (from agenda item 6)

In Attendance: Mr Paul Gill (Assembly Clerk)
Ms Hilary Bogle (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Christopher McNickle (Clerical Officer)

Apologies: Mrs Sandra Overend
Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr Francie Molloy

1.30pm The meeting commenced in closed session.

5. Consideration of a Report from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards on a complaint against a Member

Members noted the report received from the interim Assembly Commissioner for Standards on a complaint against a Member.

The Chairperson welcomed Dr Tom Frawley and Mrs Marie Anderson, and invited Dr Frawley to brief the Committee on his Report.

Following discussion the Committee thanked Dr Frawley and Ms Anderson for attending the meeting.

Agreed: Members agreed with the interim Commissioner's conclusion that the Member had not breached the Code of Conduct.

Agreed: Members discussed and agreed the draft Committee Report, as amended, and ordered that the report be printed today.

[EXTRACT]

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