The European Parliament's competent bodies were informed this week of a report drawn up by its internal auditor on the efficacy of the system of payments to MEPs' assistants. The report was a systems analysis and looked at a sample of 167 payments and their supporting documents from 2004 and 2005. It did not look into individual MEPs' transactions and did not reveal cases of fraud.
The internal auditor, whose role within the European Parliament is entirely independent, confirmed existing concerns that the system of staff employment for MEPs has become far too complicated, with three different methods of contracting staff and 27 different national taxation, social security and administrative systems involved. Some MEPs' assistants work in Brussels and others work in the Member State of their MEP. The complexity of the contracting and payment system has made it extremely difficult to manage, both for MEPs and for Parliament's administration.
Members of the European Parliament are elected to serve the interests of their voters and constituents, not to act as financial administrators. For that reason, a review of the system was launched some time ago. Parliament's Secretary General will shortly be proposing a single European system for the recruitment and administration of MEPs' staff, while individual MEPs would retain the right to choose their own staff. This new, central system could be implemented immediately after the next European elections in June 2009, at the same time as the new Statute for MEPs.
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.