Former staff accuse MEP Hilde Vautmans of misusing European funds

According to former staff, Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans (Open VLD/Renew Europe) has misused European funds, Knack reports. The magazine spoke to a dozen former employees who also accuse her of "psychological harassment".

Vautmans is both an MEP and an alderwoman in the Belgian city of Sint-Truiden. Europe has strict rules about combining such positions. MEPs are not allowed to have employees do work as part of their local mandate if it is not related to Europe. 

The way Vautmans uses her European assistants raises questions, about a dozen of her former employees told Knack. For years, a man who lived in Vautmans' neighbourhood was on the European payroll as a "local assistant". 

"I've never seen him here in Brussels," said one former employee. While local assistant is a legitimate status, the man is said to have done no work related to Vautmans' European mandate. Neighbours said he worked as a general assistant for Vautmans and her family.

Distributing election leaflets

Other European employees were asked to visit Limburg for days at a time to help distribute election leaflets. Employees were sometimes forced to take time off work to do this. 

Former employees also said they had to pay for their own phone bills while working for Vautmans, even though MEPs receive 4,950 euros a month for such expenses. Vautmans does not disclose these expenses, which are paid for with taxpayers' money, nor does she refund any monthly surpluses. 

In addition to her net European salary of just under 8,000 euros and a daily allowance of 350 euros, Vautmans also receives a salary of over 5,000 euros as an alderwoman in Sint-Truiden.

'Defamatory' accusations

Asked to comment, Vautmans called the accusations "defamatory" and referred to documents that show she has always acted "according to the strict rules". "Of course, it is difficult to respond to anonymous accusations," she said.

Tom Ongena, the leader of Vautmans' party, was asked about the matter on a Flemish TV programme on Sunday. He said Vautmans had assured him that "everything was done according to the rules". "Hilde is one of the hardest working MEPs," he said, adding that it was difficult to defend oneself against "anonymous" criticism. 


#FlandersNewsService | © Renew Europe Group MEP Hilde Vautmans © PHOTO HANS LUCAS

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