Labour accuses PN of 'fraud' • MEPs publish certification statements

Joseph Muscat challenges Simon Busuttil to take allegations to the European Union’s anti-fraud office

The Labour Party has accused the Nationalist Party of having used allowances, granted to members of the European parliament, to pay the salary of individuals stationed at the party's headquarters in Malta.

Labour newspaper il-Kulhadd said that its investigation has uncovered the alleged “fraud” being carried out by the PN.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Sunday challenged Opposition leader Simon Busuttil to take the accusations to the European Parliament and the EU’s anti-fraud office.

But PN MEPs Roberta Metsola, David Casa and Therese Comodini Cachia have each published audit statements, dated March 2017, certifying that “the public funds made available by the European Parliament to the MEP have been used in full compliance with the established rules of the European Parliament”.

Metsola’s certification statement was issued by accountant Stuart G. Craig; Casa’s was issued by accountant Victor Camilleri whilst Comodini Cachia’s was issued by KSi Malta. The MEPs also make their statements public, like Metsola who makes her annual transparency commitment form and certification statement public through her website. Comodini Cachia's statements may be accessed here.

The Nationalist Party said in a statement that all MEPs are bound by transparency commitments and all funds allocated to the MEPs are declared, audited and published. All PN MEPs have in fact had their accounts audited every year since being elected, the party said. “This is a rigorous process,” the PN said, adding that its MEPs have nothing to hide.

MEPs enjoy several allowances, one of which includes the general expenditure allowance. According to the EP, this allowance is intended to cover expenditure in the Member State of election, such as Members’ office management costs, telephone and postal charges, and the purchase, operation and maintenance of computer and telematics equipment.

The amount of this allowance in 2017 is €4,342 per month.

According to il-Kulhadd, the three MEPs do not have constituency offices in Malta and this “constituency work is concentrated at the PN’s headquarters”.

Thus, the newspaper said, the MEPs assistants in Malta report to work at Tal-Pieta.

Transparency International, quoted by the Labour newspaper, has written over the ways that MEPs can fiddle with expenses. One of this would be the “feeding of the domestic party beast” which sees MEPs funnelling resources back home to their domestic political parties, which is in contravention of the rules.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s Front National is accused of paying more than a dozen FN domestic party staff members out of a budget that is meant to be exclusively used for the MEPs’ European parliamentary work.

“UKIP MEP Nathan Gill is being investigated for similar charges of using his allowances for domestic political activities including campaigning. This is not the first time UKIP has been embroiled in this type of scandal; in 2012 UKIP MEPs were ordered to repay roughly €43,000 for diverting their allowances to pay for domestic party workers,” Transparency International recently reported.

Transparency International has been calling on the European Parliament to close the loopholes in the system.

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