MEP expenses shrouded in mystery; Dutch politicians reluctant to give clarity: report

Very little is known about how European Parliamentarians spend the about 4,300 thousand euros per month they receive fo expense compensation, NOS reports based on a European research project the broadcaster and 48 other journalists took part in. Many of the Dutch politicians NOS questioned on the matter, were reluctant to give information.

A total of 40 million euros in tax money is paid to Euro-parliamentarians in General Expense Compensation. This money is mostly intended to be used for renting an office in the MEP's own country. But only 494 of the 751 European Parliamentarians have a local office. What the others do with the compensation is unclear. Only 8 percent of the MEPs questioned in the research project gave full insight into how the money is spent. Many refused to answer any questions on the subject at all, according to NOS.

Of the Dutch members of European Parliament, members of the VVD, PVV and SGP refused to answer NOS' questions on the matter. Four Dutch MEPs told the broadcaster that the have offices in both Brussels and the Netherlands - ChristenUnie's Pieter van Dalen rents space at the party office. Wim van de Camp of the CDA has an office in the Tweede Kamer. And D66 MEPs Gerben-Jan Gerbandy and Marietje Schaake also have offices in the Netherlands. The other Dutch MEPs work from home if they are in the Netherlands, or simply make the relatively short trip to Brussels. 

The broadcaster also asked the 26 Dutch MEPs to share the administration of their expense compensation. 17 of them did so. 

The PVV and SGP did not respond at all. The VVD only said that the party adheres to the rules and that the expense allowance is a lumpsum payment that does not require explanation. The party also gave NOS an account statement of expenses. The PvdD told the broadcaster that the party pays whatever is left over of the allowance back to the European Parliament. The PvdA pays the the compensation amounts into a separate account, from which parliamentarians can claim for their expenses. 

Other politicians gave the broadcaster full explanations and administration of how their expense compensation is spent. ChristenUnie MEP Pieter van Dalen specifies each expense, and an accountant and party management check them. He explains his expenses on his website.

GroenLinks puts all MEPs expense compensation, and other compensations, into a foundation, which manages the money and makes sure the money is spent properly. An external accountant checks up on this and a full account is published on the party's website. 

The D66 puts the compensation in a separate account and part of it goes to the joint delegation pot. Every year an external auditor checks the expenses. Leftover money is returned to the European Parliament.

SP MEPs Dennis de Jong and Anne-Marie Mineur gave NOS a detailed explanation fo their expenses - mostly telephone and computer costs and office supply. According to the broadcaster, these two politicians make the least use of their compensation, and remaining money is returned to European Parliament. 

In the rest of Europe it is also the left-wing parties that are transparent about their spending, according to NOS. The European Parliament factions of the SP, PvdD, GUE-NGL and Groenen/EVA are some of the biggest advocates for more openness on expenses. Belgian MEPs voted most often for more transparency on spending, followed by Dutch MEPs in a close second place. The biggest opponent to this transparency is Bulgaria - almost 9 out of 10 votes cast by Bulgaria were against transparency in spending. Poland comes in second place with 84 percent of votes against. 

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