Transparency of politicians’ expenses goes global

Wow – the MPs’ expenses story has taken off in a way I never predicted. That’s part of the reason I’ve not been posting regularly (not that I’ve ever been a prolific blogger). But in the past month, I’ve been inundated with interview requests from all over the world. Apart from the British media, I’ve been in Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain, CNN and the New York Times in the USA plus various other newspapers, TV and radio from Japan, Italy, Germany, Romania, New Zealand, Australia, Greece and Chile.

What’s amazing isn’t just the interest in the story but the way journalists and citizens of those countries immediately start to wonder: ‘What about our politicians? What are they doing with our money?’ And so the campaign for transparency and direct accountability goes global! Even while our House of Commons continues to work behind the scenes to block future disclosures (more on this soon), other countries are moving to greater openness.

Two political parties in New Zealand have announced proactive disclosure regimes for their politicians. Apparently, our scandal has a ring of familiarity for New Zealanders as explained in this article:

…back to 2001 in New Zealand when ministers Phillida Bunkle and Marian Hobbs were put through the wringer over their accommodation allowances, they were both registered as Wellington residents on the electoral roll in Wellington Central where they had contested the 1999 election but were both receiving out-of-towners accommodation allowances.

And in the United States, Congress announced last week that the volume called the Statement of Disbursements will now be published online. The quarterly records show how members of the House and Senate use their personal office funds. This information is already available but previously only in the form of a large paper book. It still contains a good deal more information than MPs are willing to disclose, most notably the names and salaries of their staff.

9 Responses to “Transparency of politicians’ expenses goes global”

  1. Linda says:

    Hi Heather,

    Great news that the campaign has gone global and people are beginning to realize what theses creepy politicians are up to behind their backs. But here in Britain I sit and wonder how long will it take the party leaders to deal with these corrupt members of their parties? A few heads have rolled but most of them are staying put till the General Election so they can go with a golden handshake! The parties should make them pay back all the money and stand down now with no golden handshake. Nothing less will be acceptable!

  2. Kris Jones says:

    It’s been an excellent exercise in journalism on your part. Well done.

    Personally I’d like to see the focus shift to the European parliament. MEPs appear to get huge salaries, substantial tax-free perks and generous expense allowances, which I suspect would put our own Westminster scandal in the shade.

  3. Ian W says:

    It’s funny the UK Govt are still running the radio ads targeting benefit thieves… who may end up with a criminal record. Pot, Kettle, Black anyone?

  4. Geoff. Waterhouse says:

    Dear Heather,
    Congratulations on your dogged persistance over 5 years to bring at least a few of those slimey hypocrites to book.We could do with an investigative journalist or 2, like you, here in New Zealand. Why not come for a working holiday? The New Zealand Herald jumped on your band wagon with an article titled
    MPs feel the heat on spending
    4:00AM Sunday Jun 07, 2009
    By Jonathan Milne
    * MPs face public eye on expense accounts

    Do you have information on how your MP spends your money on accommodation, travel and other expenses?
    Email the Herald on Sunday
    I wrote to the reporter, Jonathan Milne, even provided him with photos of political profligacy. It will be interesting to see if i get a reply. I won’t hold my breath, the NZ Herald is really just the mouthpiece of the establishment.

    I could point you in the right direction, in fact I could give you a great story about international insurance fraud, a lying (US) politician (plenty of those though eh?)an innocent thrown in jail, defamation, and sooooooo much more. Keep up the good work. I am going to see what teeth, if any, the NZ Official Information Act has.
    Kind regards
    Geoff. Waterhouse

  5. John L Bell says:

    Excellent news!
    But will the UK be the first country to dole out prison sentences to the fraudster politicians? Now that is what I will call ‘leading the world’!

  6. Ian W says:

    Wonder if Gordon Brown has repaid the £6,500 he claimed to pay his brother for “cleaning services” yet…

  7. Paul Thompson says:

    Corrupt greedy politicians who have no morals as they award themselves large payrises and fiddle expences. They make out that they are worth the money they are paid. They are as corrupt as you can get as all they are doing is looking after themselves while abusing tax payers money and public funds. They even have the nerve to try and block the truth regarding the expences scandal and can not be trusted. Another lot that annoys me is the corrupt greedy Bankers who are also doing the same as the politicans as they get paid far too much. How can a banker get paid so much for doing such a bad job. High wages and bonuses and a pension that would scare you and it doesn’t matter how bad a job you do. The goverment says that if they get tough with them then they will lose our top talent to other countrys. What a load of rubbish how can the Bankers who got us in this mess in the first place be called top talent. If any of us did such a bad job we would be on the dole. Cut the high wages and bonuses and high pensions as well as the cheap mortages they get and company shares.

  8. Diane Lawrence says:

    We get told one minute that we are on the road to recovery and next we are told the recession is deeper than expected. While we are all suffering the concuquences of the recession which is no fault of our own and has been caused by incompetent greedy Banks and this Goverments policys we are now expected to believe what they are telling us and sit back while billions of taxpayers money is being pumped into these same banks which has caused all this mess. What makes matters worse is that these same arrogant banks have not learned any lessons from past mistakes and are still paying out large bonuses to staff while they are already rewarded with very high wages and pensions not to mention the shares, low mortgage rates and many other benefits they get. So many decent hard working people are having to take wage cuts while others are losing Jobs homes, savings and pensions etc while these greedy corrupt bankers and politicans are immune to the effects of the downturn and at no time will they suffer financially what everyone else is having to put up with.
    European Union nations have partly blamed the financial crisis on the way bankers and traders are paid and called for new rules to link performance to pay but the British goverment is against this and wants to leave the banks with self regulation.

  9. Diane Lawrence says:

    polictical leadership is missing from this Labour goverment as you have to ask does this British Goverment or any of these politicians really care or have any morals when it comes to our brave troops who are fighting in Afganastan and Iraq. General Dannatt has already raised the issue of welfare conditions, equipment shortages and military overstretch. Yesterday he spoke about pay. Was it right, he asked, that a soldier who risked his life in Afghanistan to be paid less than a parking meter attendant? Should Britain not value the commitment and bravery of its troops by offering a private more than the £16,227 that an 18-year-old earns as a basic wage? While our young men and woman who serve in the armed forces fight in conditions that no one could imagine with equipment shortfalls and then be treated so badly if injured or worse. It’s a national disgrace as these corrupt Politicans and bankers are getting away with rewarding themselves with high wages and bonuses along with so many other perks while our troops are fighting and dying for this country with inadequate equipment and extremely low wages.

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