In the event of an epidemic, Poland is not alone in considering raising the salaries of parliamentarians. However, the procedure abroad is often more complicated and, above all, is not handled by the politicians themselves.
The project to increase the salaries of Polish parliamentarians arouses great emotions not only in the country. And foreign websites publish reports on the increases confirming the controversy caused by the idea of the Vistula River. The salaries of politicians in Poland are always a sensitive topic, not to mention a sensitive one. This time, the temperature of the conflict has further increased due to the context of the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic and the nature of the rule of the United Right, which takes advantage of almost every opportunity to gain access to public money to improve the property situation of its representatives.
The increases for MPs are not an aberration in and of themselves. After all, they perform work that is often difficult, time-consuming and requires specialized knowledge – even if from a citizen’s point of view it is quite the opposite. No wonder the idea of raising salaries comes up every now and then. This must be done, even if not because of special admiration for parliamentary activity, but also because of economic factors, such as inflation. The problem is not in the increases themselves, but in the method. Determining who and how raises parliamentarians’ salaries is often more important to the public than the amounts alone.
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The scandal that shocked British politics
The discussion is similar to the Polish discussion, also in the context of the pandemic, which is taking place in the UK. However, it is not politicians who decide possible increases for MPs, but an independent institution – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). The regulator was created in 2010 after the famous spending scandal involving members of the House of Commons. Today it is said to be “the scandal that changed British politics” – and even if exaggerated, very little.
At the end of the 2000s, the UK media revealed that MPs frequently commissioned their public services at private expenditures, and collected refunds from state coffers. In Westminster, bills were submitted for the renovation of apartments, toilets, and even … for an artificial island on which ducks were supposed to spend swimming in a politician’s pond. However, these are stories of harmless stories, while some people have paid prostitutes and bought steroids, often illegal, for public money. The investigation resulted in convictions (and a previous waiver of immunity) of seven MPs who proved to be creative accounting and embezzlement of public funds.
IPSA was created to prevent similar situations from occurring. But this does not mean that the salaries and expenses of MPs are no longer controversial. The subject came back to the fore in October of last year, when Richard Lloyd, acting president of the foundation, announced that MPs could face an overdrive in 2021. Neither small nor particularly large – 3,000 pounds a year. Since last April, their annual salary has been £81,932, plus course money for office management and several perks. Interestingly, they were also covered with a pandemic shield. Already during the first wave of diseases, the IPSA raised its limit on business credit cards to 10,000. pounds, and the limit on a single transaction – up to 5 thousand. They also received 10,000.pounds for the costs of running the office and helping voters in times of plague. Representatives of the IPSA and politicians emphasized that not a single pound of such a rally would go to the private pockets of MPs, and each spending would be carefully checked.
There are similar voices at the moment, although Richard Lloyd swears the increase is the result of standard procedure. At the BBC, he emphasized that since the beginning of its existence, the IPSA has reviewed MPs’ wages several times: in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018. It also has a legal obligation to do so every first year of the new year. Parliamentary session and in the event of a significant change in economic conditions in the country – and this was due to the coronavirus epidemic. In other words, MEPs have a separate regulator that sets salaries in the UK, but they are treated as another sector of the economy, despite their central control in terms of salaries. Of course, there are also critical voices, comparing increases for deputies with symbolic votes, amounting to 1-3%. Increases in health care, as well as statements by Labor politicians about donating the increases to charities. But the debate in Great Britain is not a major political brawl. The procedure and the arguments seem so simple and clear that one can argue at the moment of their introduction, but not with the method.
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Italian top audit office
The Polish are much closer to the epidemiological row over the salaries of MPs in Italy, mainly because the initiative to raise their salaries also came from political leaders. It was proposed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte even before his resignation. The draft cannot even be voted on without consulting the ARAN, the public body responsible for tenders for the public administration and its representation in legal and financial matters.
ARAN evaluates all documents related to salaries and reimbursement of officials’ expenses. And although the head of the agency is nominated by the president at the request of the Minister of Public Administration, he is hardly an active politician. According to Italian law, the Council of Ministers does not exercise any control over ARAN, and the settlements made by the agency are analyzed by the Court of Auditors, an institution similar to the Polish Supreme Audit Office.
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There are independent purpose-built institutions that handle the expenses and salaries of MPs in many other countries around the world. Especially popular in Anglo-Saxon countries, they are often modeled after each other. Australia launched the IPEA in 2017, an entity modeled on Britain’s IPSA, with a very similar purpose to islanders: to reduce the government’s influence on MPs’ salaries and to avoid scandals related to them.
Salary is free from the current policy
In Canada, on the other hand, the salaries of MPs are reviewed every April, and their salaries are compared to the situation in the entire economy, more precisely: with the average salaries in private companies that employ more than 500 employees. If the review shows that they earn very little privately, they get a raise. But the sword can be double-edged. The mechanism, enshrined in Canadian law, not only frees the question of salaries from the current political debate but also ensures the competitiveness of the parliamentary profession.
Similar examples can be multiplied, because in most developed countries the topic has been rigorously regulated for a long time, and is controversial at most in an economically sensitive period, such as an epidemic. In Poland – he does it all the time, regardless of the situation outside the window and economic indicators. This is perhaps the most emphatically summarized topic.
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