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How much do Belgium’s politicians make?

Smart countries are winning the future today, according to De Wever. Credit: Belga

Today sees the publication in the government’s official journal of a register of earnings of public officials including politicians, which includes figures for the first time.

But the publication by the Court of Auditors, which runs to over 1,000 pages, has disappointed observers hoping for more clarity, thanks to the way sums of money are reported.

Each year, the Court draws up a list of all mandates held by public officials, including politicians and others, such as board members of public companies. The list includes mandates which are paid, and those which are not, and for the first time paid mandates are accompanied by figures.

However those who were hoping for detailed information have been disappointed. The reporting in some cases shows figures which have been rounded up or down, but not the actual amounts.

The system of rounding means that many payments are reported in the form of a range of sums. “The ranges used are €1 to €5,000, €5,000 to €10.000, €10,000 to €50,000 and €50,000 to €100,000,” said Karl Hendrickx of the Court. “From then on the figures are rounded off to the nearest hundred [thousand].”

In other words, €124,000 is reported as “rounded off to €100,000, while €356,000 is rounded up to €400,000.

Het Nieuwsblad gives the example of Koen Kennis (N-VA), who holds 34 mandates, including one as city councillor in Antwerp. He receives a stipend for 15 of them.

As chair of the Flemish government’s investment agency he makes a very exact €27,276, while his position on the council is rounded off at €100,000, which means the actual sum could be anywhere between €100,000 and €150,000.

In the case of his party and Antwerp colleague Bart De Wever, who has 19 mandates and four paid, his salary as a member of parliament – €120,938.08 – is reported exactly, but is in any case a matter of public record.

For his other paid posts, however, he reports rounded figures: €50,000 to €100,000 for both his job as mayor of Antwerp and his position as president of his party; and €1 to €5,000 for sitting on the board of the port authority.

Reporting is not obligatory, and 163 public officials declined to reveal their earnings.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times