Monday, February 21, 2005

Expense Account Fraud in the European Parliament?

The Engllsh-language version of Deutsche Welle carried a story in 2004 about Widespread Fraud Alleged in European Parliament which still has not been resolved.

In addition to their normal expense accounts, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) receive a €262 (US $320) per diem if they sign in to the parliamentary register, based on the understanding that they attend the sessions.

However, as this story indicates, many MEPs abuse this privilege by showing up only to sign the register and then leaving, without taking part in any sessions at all. This is comparable to a normal worker showing up for work to punch in on the time clock in the morning and then leaving only to return in the evening to punch out on the time clock again, without working.

Largely at fault for the necessity of a per diem system is Germany under the hapless Schroeder administration (along with France, Sweden and Austria), who led the blockage of an EU Parliament Pay Reform which would have granted all MEPs a uniform salary appropriate to their position, a solution which would have been a minimal expense in view of the billions that the European Union throws away on other ridiculous projects or subsidies.

The result is that there are huge discrepancies in the payment of MEPs by their home countries. As the Deutsche Welle reported:

"Italian MEP's earn the most with a salary of around €12,000 ($14,960) a month, while their Spanish counterparts earn around €3,000. The differences will become even greater when MEP's from the EU's new accession countries join the ranks. Hungarian MEP's will earn €800 a month, while Lithuanian deputies can expect to take home around €350."

Small wonder then that the session per diems are abused, since they are nearly as high as some of the monthly salaries of some of the EU Parliament members. We would in fact imagine that this is one reason why these per diems are tolerated. Without them, many MEPs probably could not pay their rent.

Interestingly, the Deutsche Welle article indicates that German MEPs are among the greatest abusers of the per diem privilege, even though their normal pay is adequate and even though the clueless Schroeder administration has blocked the sensible salary solution for all MEPs. This fits the current German mentality of "every man for himself", a terrible social, political and economic climate in Germany which the Schroeder administration has fostered.
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