What measures are in place to safeguard public money?
IPSA was created in the wake of the expenses scandal to safeguard public money. With an independent body in place to set, administer and regulate MPs’ pay and business costs, the public can be assured that MPs’ use of public money is being well managed, allowing the focus to shift to scrutinising their work in Westminster and their constituencies.
Our data shows that MPs are largely compliant with our rules. This is primarily because they are keen to provide value for money for taxpayers and are aware of the weight of public opinion regarding their staffing and business costs. We are also committed to helping MPs and their staff to understand the rules by providing guidance, training and a dedicated MP Services team to answer queries.
The publication of MPs’ staffing and business costs is one of the most important aspects of safeguarding public money. It allows constituents, the media and any other interested parties to review money spent and make judgements about its value. There are very few countries in the world as transparent as the UK regarding MPs’ use of public money.
We have several measures in place to safeguard public money. We have a robust three-tiered validation process for MPs’ claims; pre-payment validation; post-payment validation; and thematic reviews to examine spending trends and compliance by focussing on a specific theme or area of expenditure. This means we have a high level of confidence that taxpayers’ money is being used by MPs appropriately to carry out their parliamentary work.
We also have processes in place to recover money, and an independent Compliance Officer for IPSA who conducts investigations into expenses paid to MPs and reviews determinations made by us.
The first tier of validation takes place before payment and involves individual checks on a sample of claims.
The sample is made up of a random selection of claims and certain claim types that have been identified as priority risks, such as high value claims for professional services or equipment.
All other claims are paid upon receipt of evidence and checked in the subsequent validation processes.
The second layer of validation takes place after payment. It is a retrospective exercise that enables us to look at an MP’s claims in context, meaning that we can identify any unusual patterns, outliers, duplicates or repeated errors that would not be spotted through pre-payment validation of individual claims.
It also means that we can efficiently pay most claims without burdensome prepayment checks. Where the validators identify claims that should not have been paid, the MP will be asked to repay the amount to IPSA.
The final tier is our programme of thematic assurance reviews which are carried out by our Assurance team.
Thematic reviews examine aggregate spending by all MPs, normally focussing on a specific category or time period. Any significant outliers or unusual patterns are identified and followed up, for example by contacting the MPs in question to seek assurance that the rules were well understood and that the claims were compliant.
Occasionally MPs will need to repay money to us if a payment was made in error, they have gone over their budget or a repayment has been requested following an investigation by the Compliance Officer.
In these cases, MPs have 30 days to make the repayment either by paying money back to us directly or through salary deductions.
If the money has not been repaid within 30 days, we can deduct the amount from future claim payments and may also suspend both payment cards and direct payments to suppliers.
The Compliance Officer for IPSA is an independent statutory office-holder and is responsible for investigating complaints regarding MPs' IPSA-funded staffing & business costs. Anyone can make a complaint to the Compliance Officer including members of the public, MPs, or IPSA. If the complaint has merit, the Compliance Officer will carry out an investigation and make a determination.
The Compliance Officer is independent of IPSA and can therefore make impartial decisions regarding the use of public money.
The combination of public scrutiny, our support service for MPs and their staff, validation and assurance work and the measures in place to review decisions and recover money, provides a high level of confidence that public money is being effectively safeguarded.