British MPs spent $145,000 on gadgets just before elections
Sixty British Members of Parliament went on a £70,000 (S$145,000) shopping spree with public money - just months before the recently concluded British elections.
The figure was revealed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), reported the London Evening Standard.
They bought brand new iPads, iPhones and laptops and then claimed back the cost just before the deadline that blocks such purchases, which is six months before an election.
Former Cabinet minister Peter Hain was one of those who claimed nearly £2,000 for an iPad, iPhone and new PC, although he had previously stated that it was to replace old equipment.
Created in 2009 after an expenses scandal involving MPs, IPSA is an independent organisation which "oversees and regulates" MPs' business cost and expenses.
British MPs are given a set amount of money every year by the government to cover their costs of running a public office.
The spending concerned IPSA so much that they wrote to the 60 MPs, who make up about 10 per cent of the entire British Parliament, to demand assurances that the equipment purchased were necessary for them to conduct their operations.
The MPs response?
Some sent back angry letters which state that they took exception to IPSA's request.
In the end though, IPSA concluded that since purchases were made before the deadline, no rules were broken reported The Guardian.
The deadline, which comes six months before a general election, is in place specifically to prevent situations where outgoing MPs end up with items they will no longer be using for work.
The watchdog advised MPs who were standing down or have been defeated to donate the purchased devices to charity.
However, IPSA has no power to enforce this. It is also not clear how many of these 60 MPs are no longer in office.
Mr Andy Silvester, campaign director of the Taxpayer’s Alliance, was quoted in the London Evening Standard as saying: “IPSA must strengthen the rules and MPs should be obliged to hand back these expensive gadgets when they leave Westminster so that fears of another spending spree in five years are allayed.”
In guidance to new MPs, IPSA warned that expenses they wish to claim for had to be “evidenced” — so they should keep receipts.
IPSA said details of their expenses would be published every two months on its website.
Sources: London Evening Standard, The Guardian, Parliamentary Standards, www.Parliament.UK