Thursday, 26 April 2007
Micheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
The mode of transport staff of my Department use in travelling to and from work is a matter of choice for them. However, my Department generally supports the use of public transport by staff. In this context, it operates a travel pass scheme which was introduced by the Department of Finance in 2001. Under this scheme, an employee can forego part of his or her salary in lieu of the provision of an annual bus or rail pass by my Department. A particular attraction of the scheme for staff is that it complies with the Revenue Commissioners' guidelines on benefit-in-kind tax exemption. The employee is not liable to pay tax and PRSI on the cost of the travel pass provided by the employer. A total of 216 staff in my Department are availing of the scheme in 2007.
Travel by staff on official business is governed by travel and subsistence regulations issued by the Department of Finance. The overriding principle in these regulations is that all official travel should be by the shortest practicable route and by the cheapest practicable mode of transport. As a general rule, officers are only authorised to use their own transport on official business where suitable public transport is not available, where public transport is available only at equal or greater expense, or where the use of public transport would result in the unnecessary loss of official time.
Given the nature of the work carried out by some areas of my Department, it is not always feasible for staff to use public transport. For example, labour inspectors and prices inspectors are often required to carry out site visits at locations or at times that make the use of public transport impractical. In such instances, the use of an official's private car is authorised. As far as possible, journeys of this nature are arranged to maximise the amount of business carried out in a particular geographical area. Travel by car may also eliminate the need to incur overnight subsistence expenditure.