Cowen and our Embassies still splurging the cash abroad...

MsAnneThrope

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After the John O'Donogue expenses fiasco in 2009, and prior to the St. Patrick's Day travel this year, Brian Cowen stood up in the Dáil and said that travel expenses should be reduced. Luxury limousines should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Yet here we see the hollowness of those words in his parallel universe. In addition it turns out our Embassy staff are living the high life despite severe cutbacks back home.

It's time for Cowen to set an example and end this hypocritical ostentatiousness. He's the Government leader of a tiny island nation that is practically bankrupt. He's not the King of Saudi Arabia with a massive surplus of cash. In addition the Department of Foreign Affairs needs to have a serious word with all 'our excellencies' in embassies and consulates abroad and tell them to get a grip. A serious review of the cost benefits of some of our embassies/consulates abroad needs to be undertaken.

The full cost of the Taoiseach's visit to America for St Patrick's Day has also become clear with bills still arriving. A €140.96 porterage charge for "moving the luggage" at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago was not billed until early last month [...]

Limousine charges in the Windy City came to €2,622, according to the Department of the Taoiseach [...]

From Chicago, the Taoiseach and his entourage moved on to the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco where Cowen's room cost €264. Another bill for €3,999 was also run up in California, charged by Carey International Car Hire, who provided luxury transport [...]

The days of costly hotel room charges also appear to have made a comeback with €500 paid for a single night at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Brussels later in March. A banquet room was also hired at the same hotel for €300 [...] Even though Cowen was only in the Belgian capital for a single day, he still managed to run up a car hire cost of €1,315 [...]

Another €1,300 was also spent on accommodation at the luxury hotel for the delegation and for the Taoiseach's private secretary. Limousine costs for that that trip were paid for in May of this year and came to €3,993 through Admiral Car Hire in Washington DC.
Sunday Tribune 15th August 2010: Taoiseach's travel costs over €35,000 (excluding Government jet costs)

As for our embassies, in a separate article the Tribune reports:

Irish embassy staff are living it large and running up massive bills on everything from lavish meals in top restaurants to furniture from upmarket stores.

Hundreds of thousands of euro have been charged to government-issued credit cards by our men in Havana, and elsewhere. Meals costing over €2,000, NBA basketball tickets, wine at off-licences, home furnishings, pictures and congestion charges were all paid for by credit cards, with the bill inevitably picked up by the taxpayer. [...]

Another frequent addition to the credit-card bill was Binny's Beverage Depot, an upmarket Chicago off-licence, where the bill in June 2008 was $1,876 (€1,443).

October of that year also proved costly, with a $5,018 (€3,860) bill charged to the card, which included a $2,485 (€1,911) tab at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans.

Also charged to a separate card that month was the purchase of a sofa for $1,600 (€1,230).

Two days in Houston in November 2008 came with a price tag of more than $4,000 (€3,076), which included a $2,064 (€1,587) bill at the swish Pesces restaurant. [...]

In September 2008, one of the largest charges of all was made for $5,380 (€4,137) at Polo New York, the famous clothing store.

In Paris, details of payments for 2009 have only been made available, with €10,673 spent, more than half of which went on home furnishings.
Sunday Tribune 15th August 2010: There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's...

We are where we are...
 


DCon

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After the John O'Donogue expenses fiasco in 2009, and prior to the St. Patrick's Day travel this year, Brian Cowen stood up in the Dáil and said that travel expenses should be reduced. Luxury limousines should not be used unless absolutely necessary. Yet here we see the hollowness of those words in his parallel universe. In addition it turns out our Embassy staff are living the high life despite severe cutbacks back home.

It's time for Cowen to set an example and end this hypocritical ostentatiousness. He's the Government leader of a tiny island nation that is practically bankrupt. He's not the King of Saudi Arabia with a massive surplus of cash. In addition the Department of Foreign Affairs needs to have a serious word with all 'our excellencies' in embassies and consulates abroad and tell them to get a grip. A serious review of the cost benefits of some of our embassies/consulates abroad needs to be undertaken.



Sunday Tribune 15th August 2010: Taoiseach's travel costs over €35,000 (excluding Government jet costs)

As for our embassies, in a separate article the Tribune reports:



Sunday Tribune 15th August 2010: There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's...[/B



We are where we are...



I wonder why Carey International Car Hire are good enough to use in the States but not in England.

Do Cartel offer a better or more economical service in the UK, or is it just that Cartel was set up by a FFer and there is a system in place.
 

jpc

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When did Biffo every make a hard decision MsAnneThrope?
 

euroboy

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I don't know why when our politicans go abroad, that they can't stay at our embassies. Its not like we house our Ambassadors in bedsits with one bedroom.

Secondly, I hear it alot by top civil servants that our foreign staff 'need' special allowances to 'look the part' and to present a certain image. Thats a load of bull, why can't we not made it a requirment of our foreign staff to dress well, when supermarkets spend home staff if they are unshaven and untidy. Ryanair penalises it's staff if they have a broken nail or a hair out of place. Our Foreign service could likewise demand that a certain image needs to be projected and if you don't like it, no foreign assigments. Its time we stop giving allowances to people to do the job they are paid to do.

And its not like these allowances are effective, I saw a picture of a senior civil servant recently in Brussels with his shirt collar pulled back, and on another occasion, someone from the perm rep office had the baggy pair of trousers not even a schoolboy would be let away with. You can take the man from the bog, but no amount of allowances and credit card expense accounts will take the bog from the man. One way around it, hire people that are not going to show the country up.
 

MsAnneThrope

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When did Biffo every make a hard decision MsAnneThrope?
I think fighting the holding of by-elections, using taxpayers' cash, is a hard decision. Give the man some credit :)
 

Mushroom

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When did Biffo every make a hard decision MsAnneThrope?

I'd say that the toughest decision that the BIFF has had to make in his 26 years of sucking at the taxpayers' teat, boozing in the Dail bar and doing SFA for his country was when he decided that perjuring a Sinn Fein councillor wasn't a sackable offence for one of his Ministers.

As the BIFF is (nominally) a solicitor and an officer of the court, I'd say that this tough decision caused him hours of restless tossing and turning on his double-strength mattress before he concluded that such unethical behaviour was OK with him.
 

MsAnneThrope

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The waste isn't limited to foreign trips it would appear, and Dempsey's recent faux pas seems to be the tip of the iceberg. The Independent is reporting today that TDs are using the Government jets "like taxis" for domestic travel.

GOVERNMENT jets are being used to collect and drop ministers at locations convenient to their homes -- at additional cost to the taxpayer. [...]

Ministers who have chauffeur-driven cars often board at Baldonnel and are picked up later at an airport closer to home after their garda driver has made the journey by road.

According to documents from the Department of Defence, obtained by the Irish Independent, the Gulfstream jet has landed in Cork eight times this year to facilitate Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and once for Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe.

The Learjet has landed four times in Cork to facilitate Mr Martin and twice in Derry for Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.

This year's use of local airports was similar to last year when the Gulfstream landed six times and the Learjet landed 11 times in Cork with Mr Martin on board.

The Gulfstream landed twice and the Learjet landed four times at Knock with Ms Coughlan on board. Derry and Knock airports are closest to her home in Co Donegal. [...]

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was picked up in his home town of Dundalk by helicopter, before flying to Letterkenny. Tanaiste Mary Coughlan was collected at a Donegal GAA pitch to travel to the Phoenix Park.

In all, there were 16 such helicopter flights last year, according to records provided by the Department of Defence.
Irish Independent 16th August 2010: Ministers 'using government jets like taxis' for local trips

Same planet, different world.
 
D

Dylan2010

if there is one dept that could slash their expenditure and not affect the man on the street its this one. its a 19thC hangover. With modern communications I cant see the point of them. A call centre here and some contracted out services if needs be.
 

MsAnneThrope

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if there is one dept that could slash their expenditure and not affect the man on the street its this one. its a 19thC hangover. With modern communications I cant see the point of them. A call centre here and some contracted out services if needs be.
The crazy thing is we've actually been increasing the number of embassies and consular offices in Africa alone in the last few years:

Lesotho? Malawi? Sudan? Tanzania? Zambia? Zimbabwe? Botswana? Ethiopia? Ghana? Mozambique? Sierra Leone?

And we know about Uganda too. Seriously, is there justification for all these embassies and consular offices in Africa alone, not to mention all the other worldwide locations where we have them too?
 

DCon

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The crazy thing is we've actually been increasing the number of embassies and consular offices in Africa alone in the last few years:

Lesotho? Malawi? Sudan? Tanzania? Zambia? Zimbabwe? Botswana? Ethiopia? Ghana? Mozambique? Sierra Leone?

And we know about Uganda too. Seriously, is there justification for all these embassies and consular offices in Africa alone, not to mention all the other worldwide locations where we have them too?
Has Ahern given speeches in any of these countries?
 

MsAnneThrope

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Has Ahern given speeches in any of these countries?
Yes, in January 2008, he was in Tanzania (and pledged €160m over 3-4 years). He was only out of the country a couple of weeks when the Tanzanian Government collapsed over corruption charges :)

He was in South Africa too that week where he also pledged money. €17m that trip alone.
 

MsAnneThrope

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Is it fair to say that fatigue has set in, when it comes to excesses like these? Did John O'Donoghue raise the bar so high that a dozen or so domestic trips on the Government jet, luxury limousines abroad and €500 a night hotel rooms no longer raise an eyebrow? I know people will talk about the €20bn deficit and shrug "ah shur what's a few hundred thousand here and there?".

It all adds up of course, but it's the gall of it all that gets to me. It's no different to Haughey's "living way beyond our means" speech. At least Haughey was able to hide a lot of his hedonistic, extravagant lifestyle from the public. The current lot are doing it right under our noses. I think Fintan O'Toole summed up this dying Government's mentality well when he said:

Now, the Government is like a young man who has taken a girl he is trying to impress to a fancy restaurant. He knew it would be pricey. He opens the menu to find it is 10 times more expensive than he thought.

Paying for the meal will max out all his credit cards. He should get up and walk away from the table. But he can’t bear the humiliation, so he smiles and orders a bottle of champagne as well.




Respect your betters...
 

DCon

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Yes, in January 2008, he was in Tanzania (and pledged €160m over 3-4 years). He was only out of the country a couple of weeks when the Tanzanian Government collapsed over corruption charges :)

He was in South Africa too that week where he also pledged money. €17m that trip alone.
Would it be fair to assume that his "speeches" could be payment for monies given from the Irish State?
 

MsAnneThrope

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AS our national debt mounts up by tens of thousands of euro every minute and Nama takes control of more and more land and properties by the day, the Sunday Independent has learnt that the State is sitting on a sizeable portfolio of foreign embassy properties worth about €114m at the last valuation.
We may be paying for a similarly lavish lifestyle at the Holy See combined chancery and ambassador's residence in Rome. Our second most valuable embassy property, it was bought by the State for €203,158 in 1946. When last valued in 2005, Villa Spada, which dates from the 1630s, was worth €16m. According to figures recently revealed by the Sunday Independent, €1.4m has been spent refurbishing Villa Spada over the past five years and €3m has been spent running it. The Vatican will not accept the accreditation of an ambassador who is also our ambassador to Italy, meaning we have to maintain and run a second separate embassy in Rome costing millions of euro a year.
Topping the list is a mansion close to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Avenue Foch, one of the city's most expensive streets [...]

Last valued at €25m in 2005, if it was put on the market today the State would undoubtedly book a decent and much-needed profit. However, although we all own this luxurious property, unless you happen to call in if on holiday in the French capital, the DFA seems rather reluctant to show taxpayers just how much we are spoiling the ambassador Paul Kavanagh -- as its website features just one photo of the outside of the building.

This is in marked contrast to our neighbours in Britain who allow their taxpayers to view plenty of photos of the interior and exterior of their similarly grand ambassadors' residences in Paris and Rome, leaving us to wonder at what kind of lavish living we might be funding.
Is it time to seriously consider flogging a few of these palaces and downsizing to smaller, less expensive properties, not to mention closing some embassies in faraway places? A lot of new embassies were opened in far-flung countries during the Ahern years and are manned by a small army of ex-pats who, if recent reports are anything to go by, are living it up big time abroad at the taxpayers' expense.

Sunday Independent, 29th August 2010: Why the ambassador's parties are utterly flash
 

MsAnneThrope

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The wonderful Ken Foxe had some additional details on expenditure in this area:

A total of €562,000 was spent in Canberra, Australia, with most of that going on redevelopment of the chancery and a further €46,000 spent on the official residence.

The house of the ambassador in Oslo, Norway, was also renovated at considerable cost, with the project coming in at €550,000.

Significant costs were run up in the US capital Washington DC, where a total of €709,000 was spent doing up the official residence there.

In 2009, the largest costs again related to works carried out in the Hague and in Ottawa, but more than €10m was spent that year.

Other large-scale projects included a €1.144m renovation of the chancery in Brussels, Belgium, and €939,000 spent at the chancery in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa
Sunday Tribune: Nearly €28m spent on refurbishing network of embassy buildings

Almost €1m in Ethiopia? Wow.
 

dalywise

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They're still at it!!! Indo today lists the perks of our foreign "reps". You'd never think we're a bankrupt state being bailed out by all and sundry.

- €2m plus in private school fees for children of diplomatic staff.
- Business class travel for ambassadors and their families.
- Six-figure entertainment allowances.
- Chauffeur-driven limos.
- Generous additional living allowances of about €8.5m a year in 34 so-called hardship posts including Singapore, Warsaw, Vilnius, Ankara, Riga and Sofia.
- Lavish parties.
- Massive renovations of residences and embassy buildings into "palaces".
- Huge rent allowances totalling over €10m for those not afforded a residence.

Globetrotting diplomats rack up €235m expenses - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie


The Indo missed a real beaut though, the absolute favourite perk of the Foreign Affairs people. They absolutely love travelling on official business in their on private cars! The scam is that the diplolmats abroad get exactly the same mileage rates (kilometrage now I suppose) as home based civil servants. These are generous rates even for the home based boys and gals. But diplomats have the following perks also:

- they can purchase tax free (no VAT, VRT, excise etc) their own private cars
(and no limit to the number they can buy) and
- they pay no tax on fuel - so a litre of pertol costs them about 40 cents at most (compared to €1.40 at home).

The civil service mileage rates are set with costs in Ireland in mind but foreign diplomats get exactly the same rate. They absoluetly clean up using their own cheap tax free cars and cheap tax free petrol.
 


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