Monday, 10 November 2014

Schadenfreude

Oh what bliss it was to watch TV news on Friday evening! Earlier that day, the story broke that three PiS deputies - Adam Hofman, the party's spokesman, Mariusz Kamiński (not to be confused with the former head of the anti-corruption agency, the CBA) and Adam Rogacki - were caught flying to Madrid on Ryanair when they had all claimed expenses for driving there and back on parliamentary business.

They would have gotten away with it, had it not been for the fact that their wives, travelling with them, were drinking alcohol that they'd brought onto the plane (something forbidden by the airline), and were remonstrating aggressively with cabin staff. The in-flight fracas was brought to the attention of the tabloid press, which led to some investigative digging. This in turn resulted in some interesting facts coming to light.

Firstly, that Hofman had done this fiddle before many times over the years - claiming mileage for driving to foreign destinations on parliamentary business, yet buying tickets on low-cost airlines. The sum of 64,000 zlotys (about £12,000) has been mentioned in media reports. The other two were also discovered to have been doing this. They'd been buying the airline tickets weeks in advance of claiming for travel expenses.

Secondly, that once at his destination, Hofman only voted six times out of the 25 parliamentary deliberations that he had ostensibly gone to attend. He'd sign his name in the register and then slip away. So rather than sticking up for Polish taxpayers' best interests, he'd be off sightseeing, at their expense.

All the glee and schadenfreude at the political end of this slippery trio has come at a particular inauspicious time for PiS - a week before the local and provincial elections.

To his credit, Prezes Kaczyński has terminated the trio with extreme prejudice - they've been expelled from the party earlier today. Oh what bliss it was to watch the TV news this evening! Mr Kaczyński has lost his able spokesman, who always knew how to make his boss look good, just as Poland is about to vote for its mayors and provincial parliaments.

Fun though it may have been watching PiS squirming in extreme discomfort, it is worth putting this Polish MPs expenses scandal into perspective. Do take a minute or two to see the size and scale of the 2009 UK Parliamentary Expenses Scandal. How the mighty have fallen, eh?

I'm sure that PiS deputies were not alone in this form of misbehaviour. It is evident that there were no checks in place to make sure that the money given as an advance (zaliczka) was ever accounted for later. Having worked all my life in the private sector, this is unthinkable. When I return from a business trip, I account for all my bus tickets, taxi receipts, hotel invoices etc - or I don't see my money back. That's fair. I cannot get to grips with an expenses system that's so lax that money is just handed over on trust - and that's the end of the matter.

And the idea of flying to a conference and not taking part is equally scandalous. If the taxpayer is paying these parliamentarians to represent them internationally - that is what they should be doing.

The arrogance and complacency shown by these three deputies should, I hope, result in none of them ever holding public office again. And a thorough investigation needs to be carried out into our parliamentarians' foreign trips - how much they cost and what they accomplished.

It is worth copying the idea of TheyWorkForYou.com. This website gives UK voters all the details about the person who represents them in Parliament. Take a look, for example, at Stephen Pound MP, who represents my parents' constituency, Ealing North. To quote something that three different visitors from the UK have said to me over the past week, 'this is what "good" looks like'. Poland needs to replicate this. OniPracujaDlaCiebie.pl, anyone?

This time last year:
From the Mersey to the Tyne

This time two years ago
Autumnal Gdańsk

This time three years ago:
What Independence Day means for Poles

This time four years ago:
Words fail me: what's the Polish for 'to fail'?

This time five years ago:
Autumn in Dobra

This time seven years ago:
Autumn ploughing

8 comments:

Alexander said...

Nothing new here. No accountant EVEr signed off the annual report of the EU.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10306461/EU-auditors-must-tone-down-criticism-of-Brussels-spending-says-Herman-Van-Rompuy.html

Regrads, Alexander

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Alexander - damn right. The EU institutions should be just as transparent about their spending as any private-sector company. The EU should practice what it preaches about transparency and sustainability. This lack of transparency only gives arguments to Ukip and its likes. And a divided EU is one that Mr Putin can carve up easily.

AndrzejK said...

What a wonderful word Schadenfreude is. Only the German's could have a compact expression for the malicious delight at the misfortune of others.

Turning to the three PiS MPS's although the timing was wrong Kaczyński has once again got rid of competition. Turning to the MPS's no doubt they will bleat about everyone fiddling expenses and point at Radosław Sikorski et al. The difference being of course that:

1. Sikorski actually was at the meal he claimed on expenses,
2. Those who seek to uphold moral certainties and deny others the right to a different view (both PiS and a fair chunk of the Catholic Hierachy) should make an extra effort to avoid hipocrisy. Of course at the heart of their moral cant is a feeling of being above the law (co wolno wojewodzie to nie tobie mały smrodzie)..

And congratulations to Ewa Kopacz who has risen above the fracas and has adopted the sensible policy of ignoring PiS completely (old Polish saying about not touching ....).

student SGH said...

What a brilliant and witty note. It deserves a response much longer than the size of the comment box. Therefore, I will commit one on PES the next weekend. Mindful of time scarcities, I predict I will make it after polling station close (voting law observance above all).

Just now I recommend you pop by Gazeta Polska Codziennie. I visited the page curious of their reaction to the recent scandal and... there is almost no reaction, with the exception of this article which the whole story on its head. Lousy propaganda Putin's henchmen wouldn't be ashamed of!

Jonno said...

Since the Gov started slashing our public services, Tory MP @EricPickles has spent £500,000 of public money on cars.

@UKuncut

adthelad said...

I get the feeling that the glee and laughter is more knee-jerk than righteous, and in reality, rings hollow. A comparison that comes to mind is of a gang of thieves rejoicing at the fact that some policemen have been found stealing. It might raise some belly laughs among those who prefer that side of the fence but effectively nothing's changed - the principles of law and justice still continue. Ho, ho :)

adthelad said...

Present company excepted of course ;)

AndrzejK said...

@adthelad the glee arises from a bad case of total hipocrisy. The point is that if you preach moral rectitude then it behoves you to ensure that all the disciples are squeeky clean. Which is not to condone the actions of any politician. It's just that PiS denies anyone who does not support them the right to err and sin. And I guess Kaczyński must be livid that PO refuses under Ewa Kopacz to rise to the bait. Błaszczyk yesterday was priceless. Now he blames the kancelaria marszalkowska for his own inability to check facts. The same goes for the press (of whatever hue). Such times we live in.