Climbdown as MEPs' abuse of expenses is finally revealed

 

The European Parliament yesterday bowed to three years of pressure and released a secret report that exposed the widespread abuse of expenses by MEPs.

A meeting of the Parliament's governing bureau on Wednesday agreed not to contest a court ruling that instructed it to release a 2008 internal audit which it had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to keep secret.

The decision – first revealed in The Independent earlier this week – means that European institutions will have to prove a "serious threat to the decision-making process" to keep such audit reports secret.

According to the audit, which looked at a sample of anonymous MEP claims, members had channelled their £125,000-a-year allowances for secretaries and research assistants into family-owned businesses, foreign bank accounts and "front" companies.

The report also revealed that politicians used up their portion of the £100 million expenses pot as they did not need to provide receipts. But the 90-page document by the Parliament's chief auditor Robert Galvin did not name the culprits.

The climbdown follows a European Court of Justice ruling earlier this month which decided that institutions can no longer claim potential political controversy is sufficient to refuse access to internal audit reports. Members of the public will also no longer have to show an "overriding public interest" when requesting documents.

It will now heap pressure on the Parliament to further reform its expenses system and release individual claims that are not covered under Freedom of Information rules.

Ciarán Toland, the Irish barrister who took the Parliament to court and forced the release, said: "This is a great victory for transparency in all European institutions as, for the first time, it puts the onus on the institution to prove why a document should not be released rather than on the citizen to prove that it should."

The Galvin Report analysed 167 allowance payments dating back to 2004 and 2005. It found systematic abuses of parliamentary allowances, including payments made to assistants of MEPs who were not even accredited to work in the Parliament, and end-of-year bonuses worth nearly 20 times the monthly salary paid to assistants, which allowed members to use up their full annual allowance.

It found that one payment, supposedly for secretarial work, was made to a crèche whose manager was a local politician from the MEP's party.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones