“Rules dictate that MPs under investigation for unjustified or fraudulent expense claims must be publicly identified.
…Under rules set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), MPs under investigation for unjustified or fraudulent expense claims must be publicly identified.
But the organisation’s compliance officer, Peter Davis, has avoided naming individuals by carrying out detailed “assessments” of the complaints, denying they amount to formal “investigations”.
The loophole last week allowed Mr Davis to refer two MPs to the police over expenses fraud without ever launching a formal investigation, which would have triggered a public announcement.
It has also allowed other MPs to avoid publicity about using taxpayer-funded websites for party-political material by paying back website domain fees to Ipsa, or simply removing content from sites.
Ipsa previously proposed conducting probes in secret to prevent “reputational damage” to MPs – but the idea was dropped after criticism from the Commons Standards Committee and Committee for Standards in Public Life. It now appears that Ipsa is using “assessments” to get around calls for transparency.
According to a breakdown of cases, released by Mr Davis’s office in response to a Freedom of Information request, 40 “assessments” of allegations against politicians were carried out in 2014-15. But just one – relating to Conservative MP Bob Blackman’s mileage claims – was classified as a formal investigation and disclosed publicly.
Among those listed as “closed prior to an investigation” was a case in June last year where an unnamed MP claimed for a taxi journey that was not allowable. The compliance office concluded it had been a “legitimate error by a member of staff” and said it had been “repaid in full”.
In another case, an allegation was made that an MP’s staff had filed duplicate claims for a hotel. Mr Davis considered the matter closed after “the MP provided a valid explanation for why two separate hotels were claimed inadvertently for the same night and… repaid”.