Tuesday 14 September 2010

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Committee

A number of written questions have been put down - and the answers are attached
Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask the hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, how many staff are employed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to work on public relations; what the total cost to the public purse of employing staff for public relations work has been since it began operation; and which (a) agencies and (b) Government departments have provided staff to undertake such work for IPSA in that period.

Mr Charles Walker: IPSA currently employs two members of staff in its communications team. One person has responsibility for external communications, including the media, and one person has responsibility for internal communications and website management. A director of communications will soon be joining IPSA to provide strategic oversight and direction to its communications activities.

Since IPSA began operations on 7 May 2010, the total spend on employing staff for all aspects of communications activities has been £37,840. This includes the associated expenditure of national insurance and employer pension contributions and VAT on contracted staff supplied by GovGap.

No Government Departments have provided staff to IPSA's communication team in this period. IPSA received communications advice and support from Apex Communications during the initial phase of operation as it was recruiting and establishing its in-house communication team, but does not any more.

Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask what the (a) value and (b) length of contract is for the computer system used by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority; and with which organisation the contract is made.

Mr Charles Walker: The Contract is with Calyx (UK) Ltd. The length of the contract is five years from February 2010.

The scope of the contract covers infrastructure and enterprise software support as follows:
Infrastructure support covers:
Server hardware, desktops and laptops, network hardware, office infrastructure, firewalls, anti-virus, web proxy and hosting services, WAN link, security solutions, email, telephony.

Enterprise software support covers:
Software support for financial accounting, online expense system, payroll, HR, customer management system.

The annual value of the contract including both infrastructure and enterprise support is £194,000 in the first year and £252,000 per year in subsequent years.

Glenda Jackson: To ask how many (a) full-time and (b) part-time staff work for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority; and if the Authority will publish its standard employment contract for staff.

Mr Charles Walker: As of 19 July 2010, IPSA has 83 staff of whom:
(a) 82 are full-time; and
(b) one part-time.
IPSA will send the standard employment contract template to the hon. Member.

Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask how many full-time staff each department of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority employs; and what the staff turnover has been in each week since 1 May 2010.

Mr Charles Walker: As of 27 July 2010, there are 78 full-time members of staff working at IPSA, broken down as follows.
 (Unit / Permanent / Temporary
Chief Executive's Unit   1   1
Operations   16   35
Finance and Corporate Services   4   11
Policy, Communications and Secretariat   6   4

There has been no turnover in our permanent staff since 1 May 2010. Due to the nature of temporary employment, there are no figures available for turnover in temporary staff.

Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask if he will list each of the changes made to the rules and procedures implemented by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority since its inception.

Mr Charles Walker: A small number of changes to the MPs' Expenses Scheme were introduced in July 2010, following the consultation required by the Parliamentary Standards Act. The changes are detailed
in "The MPs' Expenses Scheme: Second Edition", which has been made available to all MPs and is available on: http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/

In addition since 7 May 2010, IPSA has introduced a number of changes to procedures to help MPs, including:
- the introduction of a £4,000 advance for MPs and advance payments on production of invoices for a number of high cost items;
- a facility for proxies to process expenses for MPs who are not their employer;
- the extension of the 90 day deadline for claims until 1 October 2010;
- the introduction of the "grace period" until early September, under which claims submitted over the summer which are outside the rules will not be published.

These and other changes have been documented in the IPSA MPs' Bulletin, which is sent to all MPs each week and available on: http://www.parliamentarystandards.org.uk/

Ann McKechin: To ask how many refusals of claims had been communicated to hon. Members by means of (a) the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority website and (b) by email for the period to 7 September 2010.

Mr Charles Walker: Where a claim is refused in full or in part, MPs are provided with summary details of the refusal via the online system under heading 'Refusals'. By close of business on 9 September, 25,872 claim lines had been approved and 1,574 claim lines had been refused.

Currently refusals are not communicated via e-mail.

Ann McKechin: To ask what proportion of claim refusal decisions communicated to hon. Members by 7 September 2010 were accompanied by accurate written accounts of the reasons for which claims had been refused.

Mr Charles Walker: IPSA does not currently communicate refusal decisions by e-mail. MPs are provided with summary details of the refusal via the online system under heading 'Refusals'. IPSA is developing a process to provide MPs with an automated e-mail alert informing them of the status of claims and to enable Members to view detailed refusal reasons.

Ann McKechin: To ask how many Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority staff are authorised to make claim refusal decisions on claims; and what procedures are followed in circumstances in which such staff make an error in communicating such a refusal decision to an hon. Member.
Mr Charles Walker: Currently seven senior members of IPSA staff are able to make final decisions on MPs expense claims. Where a claim is refused, MPs are able to request a review within 14 days on the grounds that the rules have been applied inconsistently or that IPSA has made an administrative error. If the review finds that the claim should have been paid, the claim is revisited and processed. Individual members of staff are informed of the review and further training is provided where required.

Ann McKechin: To ask how many documents submitted to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority by hon. Members in support of their claims had been lost in the period to 30 August 2010.

Mr Charles Walker: IPSA does not record numbers of documents which are thought to have been lost.

Ann McKechin: To ask what procedures are followed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to record the receipt of supporting documents submitted in relation to claims made by hon. Members; and whether the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority plans to review those procedures.

Mr Charles Walker: Post deposited in the drop box in Portcullis House is collected by hand and, together with the mail posted directly to IPSA, is sorted every morning. MPs' expense claims and accompanying receipts are placed in individual, transparent pockets with all staples and paperclips removed. Each claim is then logged using documentation tracking software and scanned directly to the online expenses system for validation. The documents are then filed immediately to Members' records. Currently all post received is sorted, logged, scanned and filed within one day. All IPSA processes during this initial phase of operations are kept under review.

Mr Meacher: To ask how many and what proportion of telephone calls to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority from hon. Members were not answered within 15 minutes in the latest period for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement.

Mr Charles Walker: It is not possible to provide the requested statistics at this time. IPSA intends to provide MPs with information on its performance against its call handling and other service targets shortly.