Parliament discharge 2010
MEPs call for axing EuroparlTV, warn on ‘cash to visitors’
By Gaspard Sebag | Monday 14 May 2012
The ritual of the discharge of the European Parliament, by which MEPs okay their own institution’s accounts, is an exercise in moderate self-criticism. The 2010 discharge procedure is no exception. In his report, Boguslaw Liberadzki (S&D, Poland) proposes to axe
EuroparlTV, highlights the dangers of handing out cash to EP visitors and underlines that there were lobby offices within the Parliament until less than six months ago. Nevertheless, a clear majority of deputies okayed the Parliament’s accounts for 2010, which the EU Court of Auditors found to be free from material error on the payments’ side.
Launched in 2008,
EuroparlTV, the European Parliament’s own television channel, “cannot be considered to be a success story in view of its very low number of direct individual users in spite of the considerable financing that it received in 2010”, reads the discharge report. With an average viewership of below 30,000 per month,
EuroparlTV sucked up €9 million that year. MEPs therefore request that the secretary-general present proposals to shut down the operation.
Each year, tens of thousands of people visit the Parliament. Last year 283,000 came. Each parliamentarian has the possibility of sponsoring 110 visitors a year. Therefore, some visitors - though not the majority, according to the EP - receive financial help for a meal, accommodation and travel
(1). The ECA underlined that the procedures in place in 2010, which did not require evidence of actual travel costs and which included cash payments to group leaders, presented a risk of overpayment. Despite a recent change in the rules, it is still possible to request cash repayment instead of requesting that groups apply for reimbursement via bank accounts after their visits.
LOBBY OFFICES IN PARLIAMENT
Those reading Liberadzki’s report can learn all sorts of other interesting and alarming facts about the EP. For example, until December 2011, the Pegasus Foundation and the Kangaroo Group, composed of various parliamentarians as well as representatives from large multinationals, such as Goldman Sachs, British Petroleum and Philip Morris, had assigned offices within Parliament’s premises. Parliament regularly sends delegations, often to report on elections in developing countries. For these trips, the cost per MEP can climb as high as €5,300 per day, the lowest echelon being €1,400 daily. In this regard, the travel agency used by Parliament is criticised for not offering the best price compared to other agencies. Furthermore, the EP discharge report “raises concerns about the possible default” of the voluntary pension fund for deputies seeing as it had a deficit of around €179 million in 2010.(1) As of January 2012, the subsidy for visitors is normally composed of three allowances: meal (€40), accommodation (€60) and travel (€0.09 per kilometre).