MEPs caught turning up for work just for a few minutes to claim €300 expenses
‘Sign in and sod off’: MEPs caught on camera ‘turning up to work for just a few minutes a day in order to claim €300 expenses’
Two politicians filmed lashing out at reporter when challenged over claims
By TOM GARDNER
PUBLISHED: 18:34, 25 June 2013 | UPDATED: 19:20, 25 June 2013
The European Parliament was tonight embroiled in yet another scandal after MEPs were accused of claiming €300 expenses for only a few minutes work.
Two politicians were filmed on a hidden camera arriving moments before the evening deadline after which MEPs cannot claim a daily allowance of €300 expense – a scam know as ‘sign in and sod off’.
And when Italian Raffaele Baldassarre and Czech Miloslav Ransdorf were confronted they reacted with anger to questions about their expenses as they leave the Brussels building a few minutes later.
A reporter Tom Staal from Dutch satirical television station GreenStijl TV was manhandled after approaching both politicians for a comment.
But both were clearly reluctant to talk about their expenses.
Mr Staal ask Ransdorf, a member of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, if he is ‘collecting €300 for doing nothing’ before adding: ‘It’s not normal for someone who turns up to work at 6pm to leave at 6.05pm?’
‘How unfair is that to the rest of the European citizens?’
The furious MEP responds: ‘No, I live here, so you’re stupid. I have no idea what you are doing here’, then lashes out at the reporter’s microphone.
The reporter was met with even more hostility when approaching European People’s Party member Baldassarre, who tries to throw him out of a lift.
After watching the long-standing MEP sign in to qualify for the expense, Mr Staal asks: ‘It’s 6.30 in the evening. Isn’t it a bit late to be arrive for work? You just signed in. You collected €300 for your expenses, but actually, you don’t have any expenses for today.’
The lawyer-turned politician claims not to understand the questions before trying to grab the microphone. Then an unseemly shoving match breaks out.
A Ukip spokesman said: ‘The system is set up to allow this. We know of French MEPs who leave Paris early in the evening arive in Brussels sign in before 8pm, go to work and sign in early in the morning and head back on the train to Paris after pocketing €600.
‘The previous response from the European Parliament, when a reporter uncovered this going on before, was to clamp down on transparency and ban cameras from where MEPs sign in.
‘How much is being lost to taxpayers? It’s unknowable.’
He added: ‘It’s a bizarre way, but if you just turn up, sign in and do nothing you can earn a decent sum. The harder you work the less money you earn.’
A spokeswoman for the European Parliament said: ‘Contrary to the suggestion made by the journalist, the signature is not to receive money for work – that, in fact, is the salary.
‘The signature is to prove the MEP’s presence in Brussels, so that s/he can be reimbursed for cost for accommodation, meals, etc, a per diem. MEPs usually do not live around the corner of the Parliament, but often far away, e.g. in the Czech republic or Italy.
‘An MEP having spent Monday in his/her constituency but having to be in Brussels from Tuesday, will have to spend the night in Brussels. Hence the per diem for Monday.’
This is just the latest scandal to engulf the European Parliament.
According to an internal audit published in 2008, MEPs channelled £125,000-a-year allowances for secretaries and research assistants into family-owned businesses, foreign bank accounts and ‘front’ companies.
The Galvin Report revealed that politicians strived to ‘use up’ their portion of a £100million expenses pot without the need to provide receipts.
But the dossier by chief auditor Robert Galvin, from which leaks first emerged two years ago, did not name the worst culprits.
And the day-to-day spending of the European Parliament’s 736 members – 72 of them from the UK – remains secret as they are exempt from Freedom of Information requests.
The report was published on the European Parliament’s website after coming under intense pressure to come clean about the scale of the scandal.