Thursday

21st Sep 2017

EP transparency 'would require 40-75 new staff'

  • MEPs receive a €4,299 monthly allowance for office expenses, but there are hardly any checks on how it's spent (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament's own wording of an adopted text on its budget is hampering its expressed wish for greater transparency of a €4,299 monthly allowance which each MEP receives to cover office costs.

The EP secretariat says that additional transparency would require hiring between 40 and 75 new staff members, something which MEPs have said they do not want to pay for.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In April, the plenary session of the EP signed off on its own 2013 budget, a process known as the discharge. In the adopted text, MEPs said more transparency was needed for the so-called “general expenditure allowance” (GEA), which can be used to cover phone, computer, and other office-related expenses.

The allowance is paid as a lump sum and receipts are not necessary. Only in the event of suspicious circumstances are the expenses investigated.

The EP had originally considered using much tougher language, possibly calling for obligatory annual reporting by MEPs.

However, the two largest groups in the EP, the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D, tabled a last-minute amendment that weakened the text and introduced what was criticised by some as an inconsistency.

MEPs “[called] on the Bureau [the EP's administrative body] to work on the definition of more precise rules regarding the accountability of expenditures authorised under this allowance, without causing additional costs to Parliament”.

The phrase “without causing additional costs” limits what can be done to increase transparency.

MEPs in the budgetary control committee are due to discuss the follow-up to the April discharge on Thursday (15 October).

Ahead of the debate, the EP's secretariat published a response to the parliament's text.

“A revision of the non-exhaustive list which can be defrayed from the general expenditure allowance is being prepared for consideration by the Bureau”, the document said.

“However, a comprehensive system of control and direct payment of the GEA would necessitate the creation of 40 to 75 new posts in the area of financial management, depending on the degree of control required, as controls of small sum expenditure is highly human resource intensive and could be considered as falling under the category of excessive cost of control following evaluation under Art. 31(3) and 33 of the [Financial Regulation].”

The case of the missing amendments

At least two MEPs may bring up the GEA case, or at least the procedure of the vote.

Hungarian Green Benedek Javor and Dutch Liberal Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy are disgruntled that two amendments which would have called for greater scrutiny were not put to the vote in April.

After the last-minute amendment was adopted, the acting president of the plenary session skipped voting on those two amendments.

Javor and Gerbrandy have been exchanging letters with EP president Martin Schulz on the matter. In a letter dated 8 September, Schulz said he decided that the two amendments would fall if the “compromise position tabled by two groups” was adopted.

Javor's office told this website they are drafting a letter to the European Ombudsman.

MEPs may scrap call for scrutiny on allowances

Members of the two largest political groups in the European Parliament have tabled an amendment which would weaken a call for greater scrutiny of the way MEPs spend their office allowances.

EU parliament staff object to canteen price hikes

The EP has stopped subsidising its self-service restaurant, leading to price increases for staff who choose to eat there. It was even discussed in the Committee on Budgetary Control.

Bank agency shuns EU invitations

The EU's banking agency is not visiting cities that want to host the agency post-Brexit "to ensure objectivity". The medicines agency has no such qualms.

Investigation

EU bank accused of muzzling watchdog

An ongoing review of the the European Investment Bank's "complaints mechanism" could make the oversight branch less independent and less effective.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan leader decries Spanish government intervention
  2. Hungary set for fresh campaign against public enemy Soros
  3. Iceland's PM leads in polls ahead of October elections
  4. Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds cancel referendum
  5. Ireland to hold referendum on ownership of water
  6. Report: May to offer €20bn as Brexit bill in Florence speech
  7. Merkel poised to win election despite CDU dip in polls
  8. EU unveils cyber security ideas

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressCommends the German Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  2. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  3. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  4. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  6. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  7. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  8. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  9. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  10. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  11. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  12. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted