Colr admits filing incorrect information on claim forms

Donegal County Councillor Terence Slowey has admitted four contraventions of the Local Government Act in relation to expense claims he made for attending two conferences on the same weekend in Cork and Kerry in 2008.

The Ardara-based councillor made the admission before a public hearing of the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) in Dublin yesterday.

Giving evidence in front of the commission the Fine Gael councillor said he had not intentionally contravened the act. He said while he was not aware of the rules and regulations concerning claims, he admitted he was wrong in making the claims. Cllr. Slowey has since paid back the cost of over n2,400 euro of attending the two conferences.

He also admitted entering incorrect travel information on one of the claim forms. Cllr. Slowey filled in both forms for the two separate conferences on October 20th 2008 after attending the conference between October 16th and 18th. He told the public hearing he did not recall making the claims. He said the incorrect claims were the result of human error and that he had been very busy on the day he submitted the claims, having had attended four meetings.

Cllr. Slowey and his party colleague and fellow county councillor Bernard McGuinness, who also gave evidence to the hearing, both outlined the enormous damage the subsequent investigation into the expense claims has had on his political career. He said the investigation and the prospect of the hearing had meant he could not seek his party’s nomination to run as a candidate in the Donegal South West by-election nor could he run for the Seanad.

Cllr. Slowey also told the hearing that he had to turn down the chance of becoming mayor of Donegal over the matter and said he had suffered financially by not being able to take the role which comes with a payment in the region of n43,000. He also told the inquiry he was not aware of a precedent of a Donegal County Councillor attending two conferences on the same weekend.

He stressed that he had paid back all the subsistence and mileage payments he received for attending both conferences to Donegal County Council and the Border Regional Authority.

Referring to the filling in of the forms, he said; “I did not think through in any detail what I was doing because clearly it was wrong. I suppose I just got into a habit of just completing things and I did not read or look at those in detail and that is what happened.”

The commission retired on hearing the evidence and is expected to release its report on the investigation in the next three to four weeks. See page 22 for background.