Friday, February 22, 2008

MEPs and money

It seems that the story that I wrote about on Monday has got about a bit in the last 24 hours. First of the blocks was Bruno Waterfield in the Telegraph, the Metro, PA and so on.
The fact that the Parliament has decided in its wisdom that the best way to keep the lid on the story is to put out conflicting statements. As Bruno points out on his blog,

“The report does not name people but contains sensitive information that can easily be linked to individuals. For data protection reasons the report can not be published.”

I also got: “The decision was made by the Secretary General himself (Harald Rømer, a powerful bureaucrat who manages the Parliament’s behind the scenes administration)… They do not want any collateral damage.”
Another well placed official explained: “Look we want reform and to do the right thing but we cannot make this report available to the public if we want people to vote in the European elections next year.”

Then he was told,
“The document is not secret. It is confidential. It can be read by certain approved EPs on the Budget Control Committee, in the secret room but not generally. That is not the same as a secret document nobody can read. This is a technical decision not a political one because it was taken by the auditor himself. The decision was not taken by the president or secretary general.”
One thing that really gets my goat is the magnificent definition of the difference between 'confidential' and 'secret' when it comes to documents. You see that secret means a "document nobody can read" which is as transparent a lie as I have heard for quite a while. Translated this means, "a document that nobody elected can read". The thing is that politicians, or at least some of them, and Chris Davies of the Lib/Dems is one of them, as is UKIP's Jeffrey Titford, believe that their duty is to their constituents. There are plenty of people who are allowed to read secret documents, but only those trusted not to reveal the contents, or in other words bureaucrats.

I remember reading a study into disciplinary actions in the European Commission about 8 years ago, what was telling was that very few people are disciplined at all, and those who have been fired are not the corrupt ones, no it is those who have communicated with MEPs and leaked secret documents. (Sadly I have lost this document so I cannot reference it)

The latest statement from the Parliament ends thus,

"As the internal auditor's report has not revealed any individual cases of fraud, he has not recommended referring his findings to the EU anti-fraud agency OLAF. Had the auditor made such a recommendation, the Secretary General would, of course, have acted upon it. It is standard procedure for internal audit reports to be treated as confidential".
Try to parse this if you will and you will notice something.

Robert Galvin's report is a classic EU study. Nobody is named and was never meant to be named. This was as much statistical analysis as audit. These reports are generalist documents. So given that the protocols of the system forbid naming individuals, and this document was drawn up by someone versed in the protocols, it would be impossible for him to have named names. Therefore when the Parliament tells us "the internal auditor's report has not revealed any individual cases of fraud" it is telling the truth. But that is only because the rules forbid him from doing so. If he has audited 167 randomly selected MEPs then he will know who they are. If it is the case, as Mr Davies has suggested that there are some who should be time at His Imperial Highness's pleasure, then Galvin knows who they are. It is that simple.

To then say that the confidentiality is a standard procedure is frankly risible. It used to be standard procedure of the British army to wear red and stand in tightly packed squares. The situation changed, so did the procedures.

On a different note. On Newsnight this evening one of the MEPs scams was mentioned by which an MEP invites a colleague to visit, which with the invitation can then be claimed for. The MEP can then take a holiday and will reciprocate in due course. Everybody happy apart from the taxpayer.

There is another variation of this.

MEPs receive about 3,700 euros per annum for trips out with the EU. I know of one West Midlands MEP who boasted that he got his holiday in Thailand paid for under this budget. During the week he spent there he popped into the EU 'embassy' in Bangkok for a short courtesy visit, thus he was able to claim it as a work trip.

Nice work if you can get it.

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