The Labour Party has pledged to publish a code of conduct for its MEPs – promised before the last MEP elections in June 2009 – in around six weeks’ time, together with the financial declarations of how its three MEPs have spent EU funds allocated for the running of their offices.

Reacting to a story published by The Sunday Times last week in which it was revealed that the three Labour MEPs had not yet published their accounts – in contrast with the two PN MEPs who last March provided a financial breakdown of their past year in office – Labour’s spokesman said that while the PL delegation was not obliged to follow this newspaper’s deadlines or timetables, it would publish its code of conduct and the MEPs’ declarations by mid-October.

“Normal practice requires an adequate period of time for which this exercise will be carried out. The necessary information and the code of ethics will be published by mid-October. This date was purposely set in order to allow for the collection of data and information required,” the spokesman said in a letter to the editor (page 17).

Despite a statement in February 2009 made by Labour’s Head of Delegation, Louis Grech, in which he had promised that Labour was drawing up a code of conduct for its MEPs to enter in force in the new legislature, this code was never published.

On the other hand, the Nationalist Party published its Transparency Commitment before the elections and its MEPs published their first batch of accounts directly on their websites.

The PL spokesman did not make any reference to comments from sources who said that Labour’s code of conduct was still in the process of being drawn up.

The issue of transparency was a hot potato before the last MEP elections, with various foreign press reports claiming certain parliamentarians were siphoning into their own pockets EP money provided for the running of their offices in Brussels and their constituencies.

In order to start with a clean slate and provide better transparency, the EP enacted a new statute for its members including granting the same pay for every MEP. Travel expenses started being paid against the presentation of receipts instead of a lump sum payment which used to be paid to MEPs in past legislatures.

In an e-mail sent on behalf of his colleagues last May, Mr Grech had said that “the members of the Maltese delegation will issue their financial statements after the end of the first legislative year (July 2009 to July 2010)”.

Out of the three sitting Labour MEPs, only John Attard Montalto last week replied to a reminder about the publication of his office’s accounts.

He said his accountant was currently preparing the accounts for the financial year ending July 2010 and would be communicating them when finalised. The other two Labour MEPs, Louis Grech and Edward Scicluna, once again ignored the questions sent by The Sunday Times.

According to the ‘Transparency Commitment Forms’ published by the Nationalist MEPs covering the period July to December 2009, the Nationalist Head of Delegation, Simon Busuttil, spent €8,000 more than David Casa.

The major expense for both MEPs was related to salaries of their staff with Dr Busuttil employing seven full-timers and three part-timers, while Mr Casa employed five full-time staff and another four part-time.

The two MEPs also declared that they claimed €23,244 each in subsistence allowance for a total of 78 days spent in Brussels or in Strasbourg over and above their €7,000 monthly salary.

Though it’s not yet known how many employees Labour MEPs are hiring, they all currently employ foreign staff as their main assistants in Brussels. All the employees of the two Nationalist MEPs are Maltese.

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