An investigation by a group of 48 journalists, representing all 28 EU member states, and published by Investigative Reporting Denmark (IRD), has found that although each MEP gets US$4875 every month, mainly to fund an office in their own country, the offices for 249 MEPs do not exist or "seem nowhere to be found."
MEPs are entitled to a number of allowances designed to help carry out their mandate under the General Expenditure Allowance (GEA), which is meant for office expenses related to their work as a MEP, such as rental costs for constituency office space, phone bills, or office supplies. The total cost to the European Parliament of the allowances amounts to US$43.5 million each year.
However, according to IRD, there are at least 41 cases where MEPs pay rent to national political parties or even to their own personal accounts. In 249 cases, MEPs either said they have no offices, refused to reveal their addresses, or the location of the offices could not otherwise be tracked.
"According to our research, in Germany alone eight MEPs from different political parties are themselves the owners of the buildings where their national offices are located," the RID report said.
"Among them is Manfred Weber, the chairman of the center-right European People's Party group, the biggest group in the EU parliament. His local office sits in an annex to his private home in a small village in the Bavarian country side, far away from the more populated areas of his region. Weber left questions on this issue unanswered," IRD said.
"This is what happens when MEPs can collectively spend €40 million [US$45 million] of taxpayers' money every year without having to produce a single receipt", said Nick Aiossa, Policy Officer at Transparency International EU.
"It should be obvious that the lack of transparency and control around these allowances make them vulnerable to abuse. Today's revelations are ample proof of that. This allowance has rules in place and it is not meant to serve as an additional salary, a way to personally enrich themselves, nor subsidize domestic political parties. It is time for the Parliament to take action to instil high-levels of trust in the institution," said Aiossa.