The new satisfactory note by Siham Al-Kawakibi (a former member of Open Vld), until the end of November, has once again sparked the debate about the parliamentary recess plan. True or Flase? “There are representatives of people who don’t play ball all year, except on Wednesday to press a button.”
Former Open Vld politician Siham Al-Kawakibi, accused of stealing government funds for disadvantaged youth, has once again submitted a satisfactory note in the Flemish hemisphere, until the end of November. The previous note expired at the end of August. “As long as the attending physician sees that she is unable to come to work, she is legitimately absent,” says Lisbeth Homans (N-VA).
Kawakibi’s sick leave stirs a lot of emotions. A judicial investigation into possible subsidy fraud is still ongoing through her nonprofit Let’s Go Urban. At the beginning of April, she herself left Open Vld because the party was considering dismissing her. However, as an independent policy, she continued to retain her seat in the Flemish Parliament, and with this also on her compensation of about 6000 euros per month. She has not been a member of Parliament since October last year.
In purely legal terms, Kawakibi does nothing wrong. Adhere to the rules stipulated in the Statute of People’s Representatives. This states that they will continue to receive their full remuneration as long as they are sufficiently present at the plenary vote on Wednesday. If they miss 20 percent of those votes, their compensation drops by 10 percent. Of the 30 percent, they lose 20 percent of their wages. Of the half, they lose 60 percent. However, anyone who can turn in a doctor’s note is legally absent. Just like absences due to an accident, death of a family member, or participation in a business trip.
Is criticism justified? Al-Kawakibi is not the first female politician who left her party at the Flemish or federal level and then sat down as an independent. Just think of Hermes Sanctorum (formerly Greene) or Amir Kerr (formerly PS). She’s definitely not the first to show little or no show at all. “There are representatives of people who don’t play ball all year, except on Wednesday to press a button. They continue to receive their allowance, although nothing is mentioned about it,” notes former Parliament Speaker Jan Beaumans (N-VA).
Beauman doesn’t like the fact that the extended office of Parliament has hired the law firm of Monard Law to see if a monitoring doctor can be sent to Al-Kawakibi. The representative of the people is not an employee, but an elected representative of the people. If there is a place to be held accountable, it is there, apparently. So through the elections.
However, it is difficult to explain that the sick MP continues to receive full compensation, while the private server drops to 60 percent after a month. “It seems clear to me that the people’s representatives would be better off under a system similar to the rank-and-file,” says opposition member Chris Janssens (Vlames Belang). “Otherwise we will all be seen as beneficiaries.”
This isn’t the first time this discussion has erupted. But as is often the case with parliamentary pay cuts, such initiatives easily bleed to death. Nobody likes to cut their skin. “We are waiting for Monard’s law advice to see what the options are to change the law,” Homans said.
In the previous legislature, the pensions of deputies have already been adjusted. “The procession from Echternach,” Beaumann recalls. The maximum severance pay was also reduced.
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