Monday, 20 November 2017

MP pockets petrol money although she travels by train

By Jana Sotonová, Vojtěch Blažek | Hospodářské noviny |
29 July 2009

MP Olga Zubová gets CZK 25,500 from the state each month to be able to travel by car from Kutná Hora, where she lives, to her workplace in Prague. The member of the Democratic Green Party often boasts that she helps protect the environment by travelling to work by train. And she travels for free because MPs do not have to pay for public transport. The reimbursement of travel expenses therefore means Zubová gets an additional CZK 250,000 a year to add to her salary.

All MPs are entitled to the high travel cost reimbursements. Depending on how far from Prague they live, they get CZK 22,000 to CZK 34,000 a month. HN has counted that they could not spend the money even if they travelled to and from Prague several times a day.

Almost CZK 66 million of public money a year is therefore often spent uselessly. Instead of visiting voters in their regions, MPs save the money to buy, for instance, a new flat, like ČSSD Deputy Chairman Bohuslav Sobotka did.

Olga Zubová admitted without scruples that the CZK 25,500 she gets from the state every month remains in her pocket. "I have never thought of paying the money back," Zubová said.

How much does transport cost you each month?
Well, I mostly go by train, so it does not cost me anything because we get to ride the train for free. I use a car very rarely. I drive twice to five times a month, at the most.

And do you travel by train every day?
Yes, every day. When the lower house meets or when the committees meet, I travel every day.

And isn't this strange? You use trains for free and take CZK 24,000 a month in travel cost reimbursement?
This is definitely a double reimbursement. That's true. Because those who use public transport still get reimbursed. But if I travelled by car, I would use up the money, of course.

That is exactly the problem, I think.
You know, for example the money that we as MPs get for clothing, we spend it because these sums are not that large. But with regards to transport, it is probably superfluous to get the money when we can travel by public transport for free.

So, if I may ask a bit naively: Have you ever though of returning the money since you're not using it?
I did not think of that. But there is now a proposal in the lower house put forward by MP Šplíchal for deputies to no longer use public transport for free. And I also like the idea that MPs would take one big salary pay everything from it - petrol, train, buses, simply what they want. And they would get no extra reimbursements.

And can't you then pay for your train ticket already now? You get enough money for that. We have calculated that you could take the train from Kutná Hora to Prague 135 times before spending that CZK 25,500...
Look, when I go by bus with a private company on those shorter distances - let's say when I get off the train in Kolín and then change for bus to Kutná Hora - then I buy a ticket. I would not think of travelling for free there. But I do not pay the fares on trains, that is true.

So the next time the lower house votes on whether MPs should no longer use public transport for free, would you vote for that?
Definitely, yes.