SDLP MLA for Foyle Colum Eastwood has called for the immediate reform of the Assembly expenses and Office Cost Expenditure system following revelations in a BBC Spotlight documentary.
Mr Eastwood said: “What the BBC Spotlight documentary has revealed is that the system of claiming expenses and Office Cost Expenditure was abused on an almost industrial scale by parties setting up companies with no phone number, no website and no staff to be found, and funnelling public funds into their own coffers.
“What we need now is an urgent root and branch reform of a system that has clearly lost the confidence of the public and the confidence of many public representatives who were open and transparent about claims at all times.
“The systemic abuse of the system by Sinn Féin in particular has been shocking. To pay £700,000 to a research company set up by their finance directors defies belief. It’s an incredible breach of the trust that the public place in politicians to guard the public purse. And this is a party that has backed an austerity budget. A party that clearly had no concept of personal austerity as they claimed thousands of pounds of public money.
“While others criticise the BBC for shedding light on this, we want to thank the Spotlight team for carrying out an invaluable service. We now need immediate reform of the OCE system. Proof of all work must be supplied and the public must be confident that their money is being used appropriately.”