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German newspaper: MPs’ allowances abused

29 March 2004

HAMBURG – In the latest revelations about corruption practices in Europe’s bureaucracy, the German tabloid paper Bild reported Monday about how members of the European Parliament were abusing their daily allowances even while not attending sessions.

The report is based on an eyewitness to the practices, himself a European parliament MP, Austrian Social Democrat Hans-Peter Martin.

Bild said that Martin, who first entered the Strasbourg-based parliament in 1999, started making records on 1 February 2001 about the activities of his fellow-MPs in cashing in on their per-diem allowances for meetings.

European parliament MPs get an allowance of EUR 262 euros for the days when they attend sessions. But according to Martin many take advantage of a loophole in which they can claim their allowance while not actually taking part.

A central register book which deputies sign to claim their attendance is kept open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., even though as a rule business is conducted between 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

This permits many MPs to show up very early, sign the book to claim their EUR 262 and then leave again while not attending a session. Or, Martin told Bild, they will arrive on a late-evening flight in order to sign on before the 10 p.m. closing.

“The daily allowance is meant for meetings and genuine work and not simply as a signing bonus for a few minutes of being present,” Martin said, telling Bild that he had recorded the names of nearly 200 MPs involved in the practice.

Another favourite trick is claiming three daily allowances while attending only one session – arriving late on the first night to log on to the registry book, attending a session on the next day, and then departing early on the third day after signing the book.

This amounts to EUR 786 in addition to expenses paid to cover travel costs.

Martin said another trick is taking an allowance for Fridays. The parliament in Strasbourg ends its weekly work on Thursday, yet many deputies will stay overnight in order to sign the attendance list on Friday and claim an extra day.

“Many stay overnight in cheap guest houses or hotels right across the border in Germany. Then in the morning they arrive in chauffeured limousines to sign the list and then quickly leave again,” he told Bild.

Subject: German news