Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eureaucrats step in where MEPs fear to tread

It is amazing but true that MEPs have generally learnt a basic lesson. In most areas they cannot get money for expenses withourt providing receipts.
Sadly it appears that the European Parliament's civil servants have learnt no such lesson. Or at least that is the lesson we learn from this missive sent out by SGPOE (Syndicat Général du Personnel des Organisations Européennes), one of the half dozen staf unions that clog up the internal emails with their vapourings.
If we ever get back to Strasbourg, many of our colleagues will find they receive a few hundred euros less mission expenses than before (idem for missions between Luxembourg and Brussels).

This will probably come as a nasty shock to many of us because DG PERS has failed to communicate or explain this change of policy properly (except for a discreet e-mail when most of us were on holiday).

Up to now, the EP enjoyed a special opt-out from the staff regulations — something the previous SGPOE-led staff committee fought hard to achieve — so EP colleagues benefited from a flat-rate (forfaitaire) system. Better for us all and less unnecessary paperwork for the administration.

Now DG PERS has decided — we don't know why — that we have to justify the first and last nights of our missions with a hotel bill.

Of course many civil servants stay with friends on mission, and therefore pick up a great wad of cash meant for hotels. Over the twelve Strasbourg sessions a year a funtionary can pocket thousands in expenses unspent. The Unions obviously think that this is a good and fair use of taxpayers money.

Instead it is the whining scream of a fat cat having a little less cream in his bowl.

The author of this note is Tom Morgan, formally the editor of the egregious internal Parliament newsletter, Newshound. That was bad Tom, but I cannot believe that you appended you signature to this.

1 comment:

Central Scrutiniser said...

Ah, the dear old flat-rate vs actual expenses debate - again!

Flat-rate expenses are acceptable if they are set at a reasonable value, that is to say, reasonable in the eyes of taxpayers. The cost of checking a high volume of low value receipts, calculating and paying over the exact amounts due, is probably disproportionate to the actual expenses incurred.

In other words, a properly designed flat-rate expenses system can offer the taxpayer better value for money than reimbursing vouched actual expenses.

If the flat rate is intended to cover an evening meal in a modest restaurant and an official decides to have a sandwich instead they will gain perhaps 20 euro. How else would you propose to treat that saving under a flat-rate system than to let them pocket the difference?

Flat-rate hotel allowances are also acceptable if the official actually stays in a hotel. In such cases the hotel bill serves as evidence to vouch that an official has stayed in a hotel. If the hotel costs more than the flat-rate the official makes up the difference and if it costs less the official pockets the difference. If an official stays with friends or indeed anywhere else then a much lower flat-rate should be applied.

There has to be some evidence to vouch for the occurrence of a mission and thus the expenses. That much is obvious. I would have thought that the outward and return boarding cards or time/date stamped rail tickets would vouch for the occurrence of the mission.

Asking for flat-rate expenses when non have been incurred looks like brass necked tax-payer fleecing!