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15/06/2011 Will a report revealing abuses in the European Parliament be made public in the near future?

In June 2008, Irishman Ciaran Toland asked for access to the Parliament’s internal audit report for the year 2006. He did not accept that it was not made available so he referred the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union which is due to give him an answer. The decision made could cause a stir as the report in question reveals that MEPs have used money intended for paying parliamentary assistants for their own gain or for the gain of their inner circle.

The existence of the Robert Galvin report, concerning payments made in 2004, was made public by liberal MEP Chris Davies who learned about the document in 2008 and refused to sign the confidentiality clause that came with it. Despite Mr. Davies disseminating information contained in the report, the European Parliament voted to retain the document’s confidentiality.

Unless the European Parliament intervenes, the report is expected to be published soon. Journalists who have already had access to the content say that the amounts in question are high and the practices are sometimes abusive. The majority of MEPs concerned have used the money reserved to pay their assistants to pay members of their family, their political party or even shell companies. One example that will attract attention is of an MEP who declared that he/she paid the entirety of their annual allowance for personnel to one person. That’s €200,000 to a single individual.

The report’s final version was only published in 2008 and was based on a representative sample of 167 (of 4686) payments carried out in October 2004. Of course, this number makes one wonder if the amounts paid might be a lot bigger than those highlighted by the head of the internal audit unit, Robert Galvin.

Since the report was written, the legislation has been changed so that MEPs no longer have the right to employ members of their family. However, there are exceptions as some MEPs, mainly from the UK and Ireland, enjoy a derogation that has allowed them to continue working with their family members.

In the wake of the scandal of the four corrupt MEPs, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has organised a task force of ten MEPs with responsibility for developing a Code of Conduct proposal. When invited to a meeting of this group recently, several NGOs expressed concerns about how the work was progressing. The commitment of the MEPs concerned will wane as the memory of the latest scandal fades. It is hoped that this new scandal will encourage the institution to set stricter rules for fear of weakening its credibility.

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