Auteur: Peter Teffer
Members of the two largest political groups in the European Parliament have tabled an amendment that would weaken a call for greater scrutiny on the way MEPs spend their office allowances.
The amendment will be put to the vote on Wednesday (29 April) as part of a wider vote which would sign off the European Parliament's 2013 budget.
Each of the 751 MEPs receives a monthly “general expenditure allowance” of €4,299, to cover the cost of office(s), computers, telephones, and other office-related expenses. But there are no checks on how they spend it.
The original text, which was adopted by the parliament's budgetary affairs committee in March, included the phrase: “[the Parliament] considers it advisable for every Member to submit an end-of-year public report on these allowances”.
The amendment, if adopted, would change that to: “[the Parliament] calls 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”.
Furthermore, the amendment states that if it is adopted, two paragraphs (43 and 44) criticising the virtually unchecked payout of the allowances, would fall. These paragraphs call for “the introduction of obligatory annual reporting by the Members of their expenditures paid out of” the office allowance.
Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, who is the shadow rapporteur in the file and favours greater scrutiny, questioned the automatism that paragraphs 43 and 44 should fall, were the amendment adopted.
While the conservative and the socialist groups in the parliament, who enjoy a majority together, often have considerable party discipline, Gerbrandy notes that divisions on the issue of MEP office allowances are common in most groups.
“It has to do with what is common in an MEP's national political culture. Members of the German national parliament for example also receive a lump-sum allowance”, the Dutch MEP said, adding that the national perception of 'Brussels' will also likely be a factor influencing how MEPs will vote.