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Appendix 6 - Advice on particular matters

1.  Advice on advertising on vehicles ("wrapping" of vehicles)

The adaptation ("wrapping") of cars, jeeps, vans, etc., with a candidate's or a political party's livery is an election expense as it promotes a person's candidacy and/or a political party's interests at the election.  If such vehicles are used during the election period the full costs of producing the advertising on the vehicles is an election expense.

The Standards Commission is aware, however, that some public representatives use mobile constituency clinics which are already "wrapped" in the public representative's or political party's livery.  The Standards Commission is of the view that where such vehicles have been used on an ongoing basis and are "wrapped" with livery which is of a general nature and is not explicitly seeking to promote a person's candidacy and/or a political party's interests at the general election, the costs of adapting these vehicles will not be regarded as an election expense even if the vehicles are used during the election period.  

If, however, a mobile office is being used purely for the election or has been "wrapped" with livery which explicitly promotes a person's candidacy, a party's interests or which solicits votes for a candidate and/or a political party at the election, then the cost of adapting the vehicle is regarded as an election expense and, if the vehicle is used during the election period, the full cost of adapting the vehicle must be accounted for.

Where it is intended not to account for advertising / livery on a campaign vehicle on the basis that the advertising / livery is not for electoral purposes the relevant agent should contact the Standards Commission for confirmation that the advertising / livery is not an election expense.

 2.  Advice on vandalised or damaged posters

The position of the Standards Commission with regard to vandalised or damaged posters is that if a poster is erected during the election period (3 February 2016 to 26 February 2016), it is regarded as having been used during the election period and must be accounted for as an election expense even if the poster falls down, is vandalised, etc. before polling day.  The cost of replacing vandalised or damaged posters is also an election expense if the replacement posters are used during the election period.

 3.  Advice on use of staff whose salaries are met out of public funds

 The Electoral Act 1997 as amended (the Act) provides that goods, property or services which are used for electoral purposes during the election period shall be regarded as election expenses.  This includes goods, property, services or facilities where the costs are met from public funds.  The position with regard to the use of such goods, property or services for electoral purposes during the election period is dealt with in paragraphs 2.7.5 and 2.7.6 of the Standards Commission's guidelines for the Dáil general election.

Having regard to the position as set out in paragraph 2.7.5 and 2.7.6 of these guidelines, if a member of a Minister's or Minister of State's staff (i.e., special advisor, constituency secretary, driver, etc.) or a member of an Oireachtas member's staff (i.e. personal assistant, research assistant, etc.) is engaged in his/her normal duties during the election period and is not providing a service which is for electoral purposes, then the cost of carrying out such activities is not regarded as an election expense.  Where such staff are engaged in activities which are for electoral purposes their costs will be regarded as an election expense.  It will be a matter for the Minister/Minister of State/Oireachtas member in conjunction with his/her election agent and the provider of the services to determine the extent to which such staff have been engaged for electoral purposes during the election period and to account for it on the election agent's Election Expenses Statement.

In relation to the use of cars, including drivers, during the election period, it is important to note that most Ministers and Ministers of State now provide their own cars and may appoint civilian drivers who are paid out of public funds. The use of their own cars by Ministers or Ministers of State for electoral purposes during the election period is not an election expense. While they can claim travel expenses when the car is used for official business, its use for electoral purposes would not qualify as official business for the purposes of such claims. The provisions of the previous paragraph apply in relation to any activities engaged in by a civilian driver during the election period.

The Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice and Equality continue to be provided with State cars and Garda drivers for security reasons. Accordingly, the use of State cars in these cases, including drivers, during the election period, is not an election expense as the cars and drivers are provided as a security measure and these Ministers are required to use them at all times.

The Act provides that a free service provided by an individual at an election is not regarded as an election expense where the service provided is not part of the individual's work or business.  This is reflected in paragraph 2.8.1 of these guidelines.  Where a member of a Minister's/Minister of State's staff (i.e., special advisor, constituency secretary, driver, etc.) or a member of an Oireachtas member's staff (i.e. personal assistant, research assistant, etc.) takes annual leave to work on his/her election campaign on a voluntary basis during the election period, the work carried out by them will be deemed to have been carried out as a free service and, notwithstanding the fact that this work may be similar to their normal work, the cost of their salaries while working voluntarily will not be regarded as election expenses for the purposes of the Act. 

The Standards Commission recommends, however, that, in case there is a challenge to the Election Expenses Statement submitted by a Minister's/Minister of State's/ Oireachtas Member's election agent, Ministers/Ministers of State/Members should ensure that proper records of holidays accrued and taken by staff are maintained.  The Standards Commission may require written confirmation that the staff concerned have taken leave during the election period.

4.  Advice on the free use of vehicles

Part 1(f) of the Schedule to the Act provides that election expenses on transport and travel include "expenses incurred on transport and travel (by any means), petrol and diesel, rental or use of campaign vehicles, rental or use of vehicles for transport of voters on polling day, accommodation costs, taxi and hackney services and courier services."

Part 2(a) of the Schedule to the Act provides that any of the matters referred to in Section 22(2)(b)(i) and 22(2)(b)(iii - v) of the Act will not be regarded as an election expense (see paragraph 2.8.1 of the these guidelines).  The Act also provides that the matters at section 22(2)(b) (i - vii) shall not be regarded as donations (see paragraph 1.3.10 of these guidelines).

Section 22(b)(iii)(I) of the Act provides that a service rendered by an individual, including the use of the individual's motor vehicle, is not regarded as a donation or as an election expense where the service is not provided as part of the individual's work or business.  Section 22(b)(iii)(I) specifically refers to an individual and an individual's motor vehicle.  Therefore, where an individual provides a candidate with the free use of a single vehicle at the election it is not regarded as either a donation to the candidate or as an election expense.  If, however, the individual normally charges for use of the vehicle in question it would be regarded as a donation and an election expense.  If more than one vehicle is provided by the individual, the additional vehicles may be regarded as donations and as election expenses.

As stated above the reference in section 22(b)(iii)(I) is specifically to an individual.  If a vehicle which is in the ownership of a company, partnership, business etc. is provided to a candidate it is not regarded as a free service provided by an individual.  In such circumstances, therefore, use of the vehicle is regarded as a donation and as an election expense.  The commercial cost of hiring a similar vehicle for a similar period must be ascertained for the purposes of disclosing its value as a donation and for the purposes of disclosing its use during the election period, as an election expense.

 5. Advice on accounting for the use of offices during the election period

 a)     General

In relation to office and stationery, the Act provides that election expenses include "costs incurred in the rental or use of an office premises or meeting rooms for election purposes (other than for the purposes of annual or other party conferences) and the costs of heating, electricity, insurance, purchase or rental of office equipment, telephones, stationery and postage".

Accordingly, expenses incurred in the rental of an office are regarded as election expenses.  Rental paid in respect of the election period must be accounted for on the Election Expenses Statement.

Where use of an office is provided free or below cost, the full commercial value of the use of the office for election purposes during the election period is regarded as an election expense and must be accounted for.  In determining the commercial value, account may be taken of the condition of the office.  Allowances may also be made for any discount which is normally given or generally available.

The provision without charge of an office in a person's private dwelling, where the room provided is not available for renting in the normal course, is not an election expense.  Any expense incurred, however, in carrying out alterations to facilitate its use for election purposes during the election period is an election expense.

b)    Use of Dáil / Seanad offices or Departmental offices.

The use by a Member of the Dáil or Seanad of his / her Dáil / Seanad office for electoral purposes is regarded as an election expense.  Account should be taken of the extent to which the office has been used for electoral purposes during the election period.  Account must also be taken of ancillary costs such as salaries, heat, light, phones, fax, copying, printing, stationery, postage, envelopes, etc. where such costs have been incurred for electoral purposes.

The use of Departmental offices of Ministers/Ministers of State for election purposes during the election period is also an election expense.  This includes the costs of salaries and expenses of civil servants or special advisers, where they are engaged in activities for election purposes during the election period, as well as other ancillary costs such as heat, light, phones, fax, copying, printing, stationery, postage, envelopes, etc. where such costs have been incurred for electoral purposes.

c)     Accounting for offices which are owned by a candidate or political party

Notional rental costs for the use of an office which is owned by a candidate are not required to be accounted for as election expenses.  Similarly where a political party owns an office in a constituency which is used by its candidate(s) during an election campaign, neither the party nor the candidate are required to apply notional rental costs for the use of these offices.  Any expenses, however, incurred in carrying out alterations to facilitate its use for election purposes during the election period are required to be accounted for.

 d)    Notional costs of site rental for posters or other election material

Notional costs of site rental where posters or other material are erected/displayed in or around private properties or commercial premises which are not recognised sites for such purpose are not required to be accounted for as election expenses.