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Action taken to recover amounts owed by MPs (January 2018)
CAS-87164
Disclosure Date:11 Jan 2018
Categories: DEBT
Exemptions Applied: Cost limit
Request
  1. A breakdown of the amounts owed to Ipsa by MPs and former MPs as of the most recent available date, including names.
  2. Details of MPs and former MPs who have been subject to action to recover money owed, since the last disclosure you made (September). Could this include names, the amount of debt when the action was taken, what measures were taken (eg cancelling payment cards), and what the current level of outstanding debt is.

 

Response

NOTE: This request was original responded to on 3 August 2017. Following an internal review, a revised response was issued on 11 January 2018. Please find both the original and revised requests below

Original response

Date: 3 August 2017

IPSA holds the information that you request.

There are numerous reasons why an MP may owe an amount to IPSA. The fact that an MP is required to pay an amount to IPSA does not indicate any breach of the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) or the associated rules. Indeed, the day to day operation of the expenses systems means that at any one point in time, amounts will be owed by IPSA to MPs, and by MPs to IPSA.

For example, claims made on payment cards require reconciling a month after the cost is incurred; purchases are made on the card by the MP and supporting documentation must then be supplied to IPSA by the end of the month. Until supporting documentation is received, the claim is marked as requiring repayment. Where supporting documentation can be provided for a claimable expense, the amount is not required to be repaid by the MP.

Our current publication policy, announced in April 2017, states that we will publish any amount of money overdue for repayment to IPSA by an MP, including information on why money needs to be repaid. We will begin publishing the information in 2018. Section 22(1) of the FOIA states that information intended for future publication is exempt from release. We have considered whether the public interest in releasing the information outweighs the application of the exemption. It is our opinion that the public interest is best served by publishing, on a regular and agreed schedule, a set of clear and comparable data - rather than publishing, on an ad hoc basis, a snapshot of figures which are changing on an hourly basis and do not provide an accurate reflection of circumstances. It is for this reason that the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure at this stage.

Revised response

Date: 11 January 2018

In our original response, we withheld the information requested under section 22 of the FOIA, which relates to information which is intended for future publication. The internal review of 21 December 2017 determined that we could not rely on this exemption. As such, please find below a revised response to your original request.

Background

There are numerous reasons why an MP may be listed as ‘owing’ an amount to IPSA. The fact that an MP is required to pay an amount to IPSA does not indicate any breach of the Scheme of MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) or the associated rules. Indeed, the day to day operation of the expenses systems means that at any one point in time, amounts will be owed by IPSA to MPs, and by MPs to IPSA.

For example, claims made on payment cards require reconciling a month after the cost is incurred; purchases are made on the card by the MP and supporting documentation must then be supplied to IPSA by the end of the month. Until supporting documentation is received, the claim is marked as requiring repayment. Where supporting documentation can be provided for a claimable expense, the amount is not required to be repaid by the MP.

In addition:

  • where an MP exceeds a budget limit, that amount exceeding the limit must be repaid;
  • where an MP has paid for something on their payment card, but marked the payment as a cost which they do not intend to claim from IPSA, this amount must be repaid; and
  • where a claim has been identified through post-payment assurance checks as a cost that is ineligible under the Scheme, this amount must be repaid (and the claim will be marked as such on our publication website).

In addition to payment card reconciliation reminders, all MPs are sent financial statements each month detailing their financial position with IPSA. These statements include personalised projections of spend over the financial year. If an MP is projected to overspend, this is highlighted to the MP. These statements also contain details of amounts that IPSA believes are required to be repaid. If the MP has not contacted IPSA by the following financial statement, these amounts become owed.

If these amounts are not repaid or reconciled by the end of the following week, action is initiated by IPSA to recover the amounts. This takes the form of ‘offsetting’. During this period, the MP’s payment card is temporarily suspended, and all reimbursement claims are not paid to the MP until the amount has been recovered in full.

Occasionally, once the action to initiate offsetting has been taken, MPs may voluntarily decide to set up salary deductions to repay the amounts due. Once a repayment plan has been established, use of the payment card is then reinstated.

Disclosure of the information requested

As you will understand, the figures you have requested change on an hourly basis, and are subject to continuous amendments as transactions and claims are reviewed, and further supporting documentation is provided. The figures below represent a snapshot of the information held as at 11th January 2018, in order to provide figures that are as up to date as possible.

MP

Amount due for repayment

Khalid Mahmood

 £7,414.07

Paul Monaghan

 £1,246.94

Corri Wilson

 £111.75

Natalie McGarry

 £3,001.70

Owen Thompson

 £4,915.40

Action taken to recover amounts

When MPs are put into offsetting, an amendment is made to our finance systems to ensure that claims which would otherwise have been paid to the MP are instead ‘credited’ against the amount that is owed. Our current systems do not store an audit of such amendments, and so determining this information is a manual exercise.

We undertook a test to estimate the amount of time it would take to locate, retrieve and extract this information from our systems and calculate that it would exceed the appropriate cost limit of £450 (part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act). Consequently, IPSA is not able to respond to your request (see section 12(1), FOIA).