Those Demned Illusive Expenses! – 20th April, 2014

Those Demned Illusive Expenses!

 

After demonstrating the fact that she was so out of touch with the ‘common folk’, ‘commons MP’ and Culture Secretary Maria Miller finally did the right thing and fell on her sword.

Or was she pushed?– who really knows?  But not before delivering a nasty political body blow to Cameron by taking so long to do the dirty deed.

Unfortunately, unlike his heroine, (the late and great Margaret Thatcher), Cameron never seems to have the courage of his convictions and tries to be everyone’s friend, which inevitably means that he ends up being nobody’s friend.

The furore over Miller’s fraudulent parliamentary expense claims had barely died down, when everybody’s favourite reincarnation of Enoch Powel, that loveable, beer swilling, UKIP rogue, Nigel Farage, suddenly found that his EU parliamentary expenses were under the media microscope.

Last Friday, the BBC comedy quiz show ‘Have got news for You?’ in which Farage was a panel member, bandied around an expenses figure of 2 million pounds  attributable to Farage, and good ol’Nige didn’t even try to deny it.

So overnight, the Tory spin doctors and their mates in the media have succeeded in diverting the public’s attention from ‘what are we going to do about an arrogant Maria’ to shoving  Nige’s head in the ‘EU expense bucket’.

For the record, a British member of the European parliament earns US$132,000 per annum in salary; $72,000 in automatic, tax-free, un-receipted expenses; $350,000 per annum for staff costs; all travel expenses between the UK and the EU parliament, a car mileage allowance of $22,000 per annum, (un-receipted for journeys of  less than 800 kms); $210 for every day they attend parliament, plus another $210 per day if they vote more than 50% of the time; $300 per day for expenses when attending parliament.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but to summarise those that I know about: they get $132k salary, an automatic expense allowance of $72k, an annual staff cost reimbursement of $350k, (often including salaries for wives and family), a car mileage allowance of 22K, (often used for personal trips), not to mention their various per diems for actually attending parliament – more if they vote – plus God knows what else on top of all this.

A few days ago I listened to an interview on BBC Radio 5 between BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire and some spokeswoman from the EU bureaucracy, on the subject of EU MEP’s expenses. They were discussing the $72,000 that every single MEP is paid directly into his personal bank account – no questions asked.

Victoria pointed out that with 736 MEP’s, the total annual cost to the EU for these un-receipted expenses alone was a massive $52million! She asked why was it that MEPs’ weren’t required to account for their expenses and submit receipted expense reports.

The EU bureaucrat told Victoria that it would be much too expensive to try and ‘police’ these expenses and to check the paper work submitted by each MEP. She, (the nameless bureaucrat), maintained that it would cost ‘more than ‘it was worth’ and in any case the expense allowances was no different to a daily per diem paid to employees in a private sector company.

I have never heard so much hogwash in all my life!

A daily per diem paid to an employee in the private sector, would be typically an amount paid to staff when they were away from home on business and would be calculated to cover the cost of a hotel room and food. But the MEPs are already paid $300 per day allowance for attending parliament, plus God knows what else to cover most other things, including staff costs, so what exactly is this annual ‘per diem’ of $72k for?

Apparently the main purpose of this un-receipted allowance is to pay for the running of their private offices back home. This being the case, would it be so hard for our beloved MP’s to submit office rent receipts , utility, maintenance and office consumable receipts, like any other private business?

If it would be too expensive to check each of the 736 MEP’s expense claims every month, why can’t the EU just hire a couple of accounts clerks to do a random check each month on submitted expenses, and maybe target specific MEP’s if  suspicions had been raised.

That wouldn’t cost very much, and believe me, it would have a massive effect on the honesty of ALL the MEP’s, as they would never know when –  and if  –  they may fall foul of the EU audit clerks attention and have their fraudulent claims exposed. Further, it would concentrate the minds of MEP’s to ensure that their expense allowance was spent on legitimate expenses and not for jollies and mistresses. (Which is often claimed to be the case…)

This kind of system would more than pay for the cost of a small audit department. I see no reason why one clerk couldn’t review 5 expense claims per day; so in a working month of 20 days, he could review 100 expense claims.

If the EU employed as many as 7 clerks, every MEP ‘s expenses could be checked every month. But even if you had just two clerks, over a 12 month period, every MEP would have his monthly expenses checked approximately once every 4 months – 3 times per year – but he would never know which months were being checked.

It is the kind of Orwellian Euro-speak that faceless EU bureaucrats  spout when they try to tell us that it would ‘cost too much to check MEP’s expenses’, that makes me wonder even more how was it that we ever became part of this wasteful, political monstrosity.

But I have a nasty feeling that it may be way too late to exit…

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