pounds 1,700 a week for EU `fraud busters'

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MEMBERS OF a committee investigating fraud, nepotism and mismanagement in the European Commission will not go unrewarded, sources revealed yesterday.

Each of the five-strong team will be offered pounds 6,800 a month, plus allowances for travel and accommodation, with a daily allowance of pounds 210 for staying in Brussels. A separate sum has been set aside for office space if necessary.

The proposed spending of more than pounds 100,000 will come from European Union funds, split between the Parliament and the Commission.

The committee, made up of senior ex-judges and administrators, was difficult to assemble. Two of the three shortlisted Britons refused to serve and the other was replaced because he is related to an MEP. They have to produce a preliminary report by 15 March, and finish the investigation by June. The committee was set up as a result of the bitter conflict between the European Parlia- ment and the European Commission over fraud allegations.

Parliamentarians were deflected from their threat to sack the entire European Commission partly by the promise of the new investigation. Yesterday the European Commission said it would waive theconfidentiality rule for officials called by the committee.

Roy Perry, Conservative budgetary control committee spokesman, said: "This committee may be a fig leaf, and could be a very expensive fig leaf. It is strange for them to be paid by the month, rather than a one- off figure, or by results."