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The mystery of the €95 Oireachtas phone call

(This is a story featured in the Mail On Sunday, by Ken Foxe)

A politician ran up a €95 bill on one single phone call but Oireachtas authorities have no way of tracking down who made it.

The same person is understood to have run up more than €344 in costs on five separate phone calls to Colombia, records from the Oireachtas show and details of which were published in the Irish Mail on Sunday.

The single most expensive call, made in May of this year, to an unidentified number in South America ended up lasting one hour and three minutes. It was made during peak time and charged at a rate of €1.50 per minute with the final bill coming in at precisely €94.79.

The hundred most expensive calls from the Oireachtas have cost the taxpayer in excess of €3,400 since the beginning of 2011.

However, there is no way of checking on the vast majority of these calls and whether they relate to legitimate business or were simply keeping in touch with family members or friends abroad.Phone calls made by TDs and Senators, under law, are not logged for ‘reasons of privacy and confidentiality’ meaning their legitimacy can never be checked.

The costly calls form part of more than €280,000 that will have been spent providing free telephony to politicians and staff during the past two years.

Two of the ten most expensive calls listed on Oireachtas records were made to Colombia with the second costing €86.06. Seven of the most expensive calls were made to Kenya, mostly at peak time, and cost between €61.44 and €79.51, while a further call to Mozambique cost €76.01.

Enormous bills were also run up on calls that seem inexplicably long with a 17 hour phone call listed on January 20. That call, made to an Irish phone number at peak time, ended up costing the taxpayer €36.72 and was attributed to ‘faults in [a] broadcasting line’. Two other marathon phone calls are also listed in the Top 100 with a 14 half hour call costing €31.28 and a 13 hour one costing just under €30.

Here is the data in full: (Download here)

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10 Responses

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  1. Roger White says

    Perhaps they should try Skype. That way they could see their loved ones/friends/legitimate parliamentary contacts as well as hear them.

  2. Roger White says

    …oh, and it’s free!

  3. Jag Singh says

    (1) If the Oireachtas can’t identify the caller, let’s say a TD, then how can you say “the same person” rang Colombia on five separate occasions

    (2) What does Telephone 1, 2,3 mean in the spreadsheet

    (3) It’s appalling that we have a telephone provider who charges €2/minute for a call to Colombia, a quick websearch reveals there are deals available at 2c/minute.

    (4) of course we want politicians to be free to do their work, but is there NO control whatsoever on phone call expenses.

  4. Rodney Breen says

    Why should telephone expenses be different to other expenses in this regard? At least politicians ought to be required to vouch for their calls, indicating any which were personal and which they could be required to pay for. Most organizations have similar arrangements. It’s possible that our public representatives may have good reasons to call Kenya or other places, but they ought to be required to say so. And what safeguards are in place to prevent people working for / with Oireachtas members from abusing these phone privileges?

  5. Jim says

    Well we all know the Political Party that has friends in Columbia—is this more abuse of Dail privileges similar to the ink cartridges scam.

  6. Jim says

    The cost of these calls would seem to indicate that there is little conscioness of a recession in Leinster House—is there anything that we can do about it?.

  7. Jimky says

    40 out of the most costly calls were made to Kenya ranging from 75 to 20 euros each and it would seem that there was at least one call per week—–if these calls were personal calls the caller should be required to refund the taxpayer for all calls made to Kenya

  8. Ken Foxe says

    To me, the issue is that these calls can not be tracked in any way. It may well be the case that they were all entirely justified but equally it is not easy to see what parliamentary business might require a 63 minute phone call to Colombia. On the issue of the same politician having made all calls, that is just a suspicion but again, there is no way of actually telling. The Oireachtas has the technology to flag expensive calls because it is already in place for non-political staff. There must surely be a compromise where the confidentiality of the political process can be preserved but potential abuses can be investigated.

    • Here says

      Investigative journalists have a tendency to be very protective of their own phone records when dealing with sources.

      While there is probably an abuse here with regard to some of these calls, parliamentarians may well have legitimate reasons to make confidential calls to countries where we have significant Irish Aid commitments or where there is a strong Irish foreign policy interest.

  9. jimky says

    The records would also appear to suggest that many calls to phones in Ireland cost quite a bit—in relation to my landline my provider gives me all calls in Irweland and calls to the UK free of charge—why can the Oireachtas not have a similar provider—have they bothered to find one?



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