UKIP allegedly used almost half a million euros of EU cash to pay for its Brexit and election campaigns, in breach of European Parliament rules. According to the audit, taxpayers’ money was used to pay for polling before the UK general election, and the EU referendum by the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, which is dominated by UKIP.
Some other parties have been asked to return funds, most of the time because cash went unspent. But none have been hit with a bill of similar size.
A decision will be made on Monday on whether to force the party to pay back more than €170,000. An ADDE spokesman said the party was prepared to go to court.
The secrecy and complexity of European Parliament funding and expenses rules create a culture that encourages the kind of abuse that UKIP is accused of.
The Parliament spends nearly €40 million a year on 751 MEPs’ “general expenditure allowances”, payments they receive on top of their €96,240 a year salaries.
The allowance is roughly €4,299 per month per MEP in 2014. It is meant to cover the costs of offices, telephones and computers, but israrely, if ever, scrutinised.
Last year, a group of 29 journalists took the European Parliament to court in a bid to make MEPs’ expenses more transparent.
Simply by turning up to work and signing in, MEPs can pocket €304 a day, without having to show as much as a receipt.
After dealing with the UKIP funding scandal, the Parliament should bring its own house in order and introduce some proper standards of financial transparency and accountability.
By James Crisp