The Standards in Public Office Commission is investigating complaints into a series of discrepancies, contradictions and apparent mistakes in Sinn Féin’s financial statements and electoral spending returns.
The discrepancies, which amount in some cases to hundreds of thousands of euro, have been identified through detailed examinations of statutory filings to the commission in recent years.
If the complaints are upheld, Sinn Féin faces the prospect of submitting revised accounts and spending declarations – an outcome which would be severely embarrassing following its recent criticisms of Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.
Central to the complaints are contradictions between the audited accounts that the party must submit every year, and the election spending returns.
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For example, in its 2016 accounts, the party declared general election spending of €313,000. But the electoral spending returns to Sipo for the 2016 election show the party spent just €76,000 on the campaign.
In response, the party said: “The €313,000 figure… includes our election spend for the 2016 general election and also includes substantial spending on political campaigns such as the 1916 centenary events.”
But this explanation is contradicted directly by the notes to the accounts, which state clearly that spending on the general election was €313,000, and lists zero expenditure for the “1916 campaign”.
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The party also said the accounts included election expenditure both in the election period and outside of the election period. But if the party’s figures are correct, this means that Sinn Féin did most of its election spending outside the period of the actual election campaign.
There are numerous other inconsistencies in a dossier submitted to Sipo by a financial expert, who is also a Fine Gael activist. Some of them are explained in Saturday’s Irish Times.
In response to detailed queries from The Irish Times, Sinn Féin supplied a number of responses. However, some of the answers did not address the specific issues raised or gave confusing responses. Sipo declined to comment.
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