- Please publish the amount that IPSA has spent since its creation on the scanning and redacting project.
- Please include hardware, software, staff costs, and other IT costs.
- Also, please publish the number of scanned receipts that IPSA has published since it took over responsibility for paying MPs' expenses.
I can advise that an initial costing exercise was undertaken in July 2010 based on volumes of claims received at that time suggested that the annual cost of publishing and redacting receipts would be in the region of £240,000. This was stated as follows:
“Based on volumes of claims received to date, and discussions with House of Commons staff, it is estimated that a minimum of 5 Full Time Equivalents will be required to undertake redaction and quality assurance of this work ongoing. Assuming a combined cost of £20K per month this equates to an annual budgetary cost of £240K”.
This estimate was very quickly shown to be significantly out following a very steep rise in the number of claims received between July and September. In light of this, and the results from trialling redaction, the case for publishing all receipts was revisited by IPSA’s Board in September. The estimate made at this time was revised upwards following an analysis revealing that the rate of receipts being received by IPSA was outstripping receipts being redacted by a ratio of 6.5 to 1, with three full time redactors and a team leader in post. It was estimated that a team of at least 20.5 people would be needed to handle and redact the number of receipts IPSA was receiving.
Turning to the second part of your request, I can advise that IPSA does not publish copies of receipts. The operational challenge of publishing receipts is detailed in the minutes of the 21 September Board meeting, which is available on the website. A copy of which is included for your convenience. The minutes note the following:
“Andrew McDonald presented a paper setting out the resource pressures presented by the publication programme. The Board noted the challenge IPSA faced and agreed that IPSA should explore further a number of options to reduce the pressures. It requested some further advice setting out various options and associated costs and risks attached to each option.”
The Board considered the matter again at the meeting of 19 October 2010, the minutes of which are available on the website. A copy of which is included for your convenience. It is at this time that the decision not proactively to publish receipts was made and the relevant extract from the minutes states the following:
The Board considered a paper setting out options for the publication of information on MPs’ expenses claims, as follows:
- the Board agreed that IPSA would publish detailed transactional data, along the lines of the model of the Scottish Parliament;
- the Board recognised this option carried certain risks and sought assurances around the validation process;
- the Board felt it was important for IPSA to start publishing claims as soon as possible; and
- in addition to the publication of MPs’ expenses claims, the Board asked for the other items set out in IPSA’s publication schedule also to be published soon.