The Daily Telegraph has been following the latest EU corruption scandal break-out into the public arena. Already the spinning and side-stepping has started:
‘Criminal abuse’ of expenses by Euro-MPs
A secret European Parliament report has uncovered “extensive, widespread and criminal abuse” by Euro-MPs of staff allowances worth almost £100 million a year.
Senior Euro-MPs and European Union officials have tried to hush up an internal audit that found severe problems and endemic misuse of funds worth at least £98.4 million a year, more than £125,000 for each of the 785 Euro-MPs.
Such is the extent of the abuse found in a sample group of 167 Euro-MPs that “terrified” parliamentary authorities have shrouded the report in secrecy and security.
Harald Rømer, the secretary-general of the European Assembly, was asked late on Monday night by Hans-Gert Pöttering, its president, and a group of senior Euro-MPs, to take measures to ensure that there was no “collateral damage” from the report.
“We want reform but we cannot make this report available to the public if we want people to vote in the European elections next year,” said a source close to the decision.
The only members of the EU Parliament allowed to see the report are those who serve on the Budget Control Committee, and even they have limited access. In order to look at what should be public knowledge, the members of the committee must get permission to enter the “secret room” where the damning internal audit report is kept. Just to be on the safe side, there are biometric locks on the room and security guards in place.
However, there are two additional hoops to jump through:
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…the committee members must sign a “confidentiality agreement not to discuss what they learn, and they may not take notes. Hmm…I wish these safeguards had been in place in the US when Sandy Berger was stuffing archival notes from the Clinton administration into his underwear and socks.
The politician are getting right nervous about the sleuthing of the Daily Telegraph:
Last night, after an emergency meeting of senior officials including Mr Rømer and Mr Pöttering, triggered by The Daily Telegraph’s investigation, a spokesman for the parliament denied a cover-up.
“The document is not secret. It is confidential,” he said. “It can be read by Euro-MPs on the budget control committee, in the secret room but not generally. That is not the same as a secret document nobody can read.”
Parse that second sentence short paragraph if you can. It’s in English, but can you decipher its meaning? If so, please enlighten me.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that the report does not name specific individuals but has uncovered endemic abuse of staff allowances.
Many Euro-MPs are diverting the office payments, worth £125,000 a year, to “providers”, which are supposed to be accountants, professionals or companies delivering administrative services.
But in many cases the whole allowance is paid to a single individual or Euro MP’s member of staff, suspicious payments that are twice as large as the annual £61,820 salary paid to a British Euro MP.
One source who read the report said: “The abuse is extensive. I felt the police should be reading this. Public finances are being skimmed off and there is every indication this is more widespread than anticipated.”
In other words, they were expecting some “skimming” of public finances, they just didn’t think it would be this widespread. I agree with the “source”: this document doesn’t belong in a
secret confidential room, it belongs in the hands of the police. Fat chance.
The internal auditor found that some Euro MPs claiming the allowance had no employees or just one member of staff.
Another source who had also read the report said: “Some service providers simply do not exist. Others are individuals that work for or are dependent on the Euro MP.”
And the longer the EU Parliament remains in existence, the more wide-spread and blatant the stealing will become. That is what a cookie jar is for, is it not? These people are the new nomenkaltura. A tough job, but someone has to do it.
Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat Euro MP on the budget control committee, has complained to the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog, OLAF, over the “disgraceful” handling of the report.
He wrote to Mr Rømer that the findings “most definitely fall within OLAF’s terms of reference”, adding: “They are so serious that it should be assumed that criminal proceedings may follow.”
OLAF anti-fraud officials have demanded a copy of the report and have warned that they expect the full co-operation of Euro MPs and the parliamentary authorities.
Jeffrey Titford, a UK Independence Party Euro MP also on the budget control committee, said: “We were elected to represent the interests of constituents, not to cover up the illegal activities of our colleagues.”
Well, that’s fine and dandy rhetoric, but we’ll see where it leads. After all, OLAF itself was in the hot seat only last July for “irregularities”:
The head of Olaf, Europe’s anti-fraud watchdog, is to be hauled before the European parliament to answer allegations of conflicts of interest and irregularities in the way it operates.
Franz-Hermann Brüner will face awkward questions on why applications for the job of director of investigations were screened by a panel including a eurocrat who was herself being probed by Olaf.
Paul van Buitenen, the Dutch whistleblower turned MEP, said an internal Olaf candidate for the job tried to halt any disciplinary follow-up against the female official, in spite of the “seriousness” of the case.
Mr van Buitenen also said Olaf’s supposedly independent investigations were influenced by pressure from national public prosecutors and argued that Olaf should not investigate allegations of fraud committed with funds which it manages.
Mr Brüner will give evidence behind closed doors [my emphasis] to members of the European parliament’s budgetary control committee on July 16.
Question: Is there anything of importance that the EU Parliament does not do behind “closed doors.” This organization has the transparency of marble.
Like father USSR, like EU son.
Hat tip: LN