Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Assembly expenses: IPSA asked for further review

Parliament Buildings, Stormont
Image caption The Westminster expenses watchdog has expressed concerns over the way some MLAs have been overturning refusals of their claims

The cross-party body which runs the assembly has asked the Westminster expenses regulator to do some more work reviewing the Stormont expenses system.

It follows recent controversy over MLAs' expenses.

The Assembly Commission has asked IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, to update a report on the Stormont system it compiled last year.

The commission held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the matters raised over the last few days.

There was a public row between the Independent Financial Review Panel, which sets MLAs' allowances, and the Assembly Commission, which administers the expenses system.

The IPSA report of September 2015, which was leaked to BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, called for changes in the way the assembly reviewed expenses claims which had initially been refused.

But the Assembly Commission, which is made up of the Speaker and MLAs from the five biggest parties, has made the point that the report, in its own words, "did not identify any major issues of concern".

The recommendation about the assembly's review procedure is one of a "small number" of recommendations which the assembly authorities say they are acting on.

The changes recommended in the IPSA report are to be added into the MLAs' handbook.

IPSA will examine the new handbook to "quality assure" it before it is approved by the assembly.

In Wednesday's meeting, the commission also confirmed its intention to develop plans for legislation to "strengthen the effectiveness" of the Independent Financial Review Panel.

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