Monday, February 04, 2008

A public swindle

Which is the bigger crime – employing your family members in official government posts, giving them bonuses and pay-raises thereby ensuringthat more money goes to your own family, or employing family members in jobs and giving unearned bonuses and pay-raises to them for work they haven’t done at all?

That was a trick question. At the moment, neither of those is considered a crime! But if you ask me, they ARE crimes, equally sleazy white-collar crimes. It’s legal in the UK for MPs to employ their own family members to “help” with the office work – and pay them from the public funding/allowance they get. Which is what an MP called
Derek Conway did… except that he went over to what SHOULD be seen as white collar crime because his two sons didn’t do a jot of work for the money they were paid. Of course Conway doesn’t think that he did anything wrong, but why would he, the smarmy swindler?

Pete and I had a discussion about this when the news first came out, and I was taken aback when he said that he didn’t think it wrong for MPs to employ family members! He was mainly concerned that the money that Conway paid his sons was undeserved as they didn’t really attend work, being full-time students at the time.

My point is that it is wrong wrong WRONG for public servants and elected politicians to employ their own family members! It just means that one politician and his family make more money off one job than is fair – and MPs aren’t exactly paid peanuts (although they might think so, greedy sods), especially compared to the normal working person. Jobs which are now given to MPs’ sons and daughters and wives should actually go to members of the public, to genuine employees who will earn the pay, so that the taxpayers’ money doesn’t just go to the politicians! Either that, or MPs who employ family members should pay them out of their own pocket, not using public funds!

It’s a different thing when it comes to private companies… if the founder of a business wanted to hand over the reins to his offspring, or pay them a fat salary, that’s his prerogative. Nobody can insist that he should offer the job to members of the general public. But for a public servant using taxpayers money to further his nepotistic (?) aims just seems plain wrong to me. The government should make it a law that family members of politicians should not be eligible to even be considered for jobs in their office. If not that, at least the existence of such jobs should be made clear to all, so that there’s free competition rather than privileged employment for a few. It isnt a crime at the moment to be nepotistic, but it should be made so.


meerkat said...

i agree with pete in this case. mainly because it becomes completely bloated and unmanageable when you have regulations for everything. many MPs have their wifes to do some secreterial work. it works out well for both of them. 80000 pounds a year to hire staff for help may seem a lot. but if the house of commons had to centrally hire staff and supply each MP with staff, then the costs (starting with admininstration, advertisement (has to be done in all the national and local rags), interviews, then hiring, office space, staff overheads ) etc will mean that hiring a single person will cost more than 80000 pounds a year. on the other hand if a MP uses this money wisely and hires his wife or say a student to do some work on a part-time basis, all these costs are avoided. It works out fine for the couple as well.

it does not help that these MPs despite being well paid, with a fat pension and loads of perks and allowances are so devolved from the public they are supposed to serve, that they think of these allowances as their personal income. what better way to get fred and harry through uni than smartly using the public purse to do so.

there is one MP whose name eludes me, he refuses to use any allowances and does all the work himself (from answering emails, letters, meeting constituents ) etc. that is what you need a return to. people doing the work they are meant to do.

too much bureaucracy and red tape means more work for pen pushers. getting more stringent regulations does not help as those who want to wheedle money out of the public purse will just devise newer ways.

It seems inevitable that this episode will just make more regulations and some more civil servants will be employed to administer it. more money wasted which could have gone elsewhere.

Shyam said...

*sigh* There just isnt any real solution to money-siphoning, is there? Better to let the Conways of the UK line their pockets with relatively small change than have more bureaucracy and billions more pounds squandered, I suppose... I do see your point - trust you to be logical!

Still think Derek Conway is a Con-man, though!

meerkat said...

you need to be realistic. there will always be money siphoning. as they say in india corruption oils the wheels of democracy and makes things happen

80000 is relatively low level corruption. not to be tolerated of course, but focussing too much on a newsworthy and easy media target means that the big fish get neglected as it takes serious journalism and effort to nail them. all this privatisations, public private partnerships etc, they really dont have much benefit, yet they happen. why because of lobbying, donations etc. they take millions and billions away from the public. but apathy is such that nothing much happens.

30in2005 said...

Isn't it called nepotism when everyone in the picture of your family Christmas card is employed/ une-mployed-but-being paid by you?! And they have the guts to yell about hard working tax paying migrants producing children under the NHS. I tell ya...

Anonymous said...

the clue is in his name...
'Con away' - he was born to do that!