Europe: The Great Big Money Pit! (1)

map-eu-member-countries-14142535[1]The Leaders of the three main political parties in the UK are in favour of remaining in the EU. They have yet to entertain us with credible reasons for doing so. Their play ‘The Benefits of the EU Rock’ is a mishmash of characters spouting dialogue in a meaningless fashion. It involves lots of finger pointing and shouting at each other that has left the audience puzzled as to the plot. Is there a plot?  This little piece of theatre is bound to be a flop. Rating: *

“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his are the same”. Stendhal.

Obviously there are strong biases on either side of the debate and a considerable amount of emotion is exerted. However, it is incumbent on our politicians, who are our leaders, to ensure that we have the arguments presented in a clear and unequivocal manner. Transparency breeds trust: that should be the mantra of our leaders; unless their bias cannot be controlled.

What the electorate must demand is answers to pertinent queries:

•             Why has there been no secure audit?

•             Why has there has not been a ‘cost benefit analysis’?

•             Why has the Common Agriculture Policy not been overhauled?

•             Why is the Human Rights Law allowed to override democracy?

•             Why is there no cost cutting exercise being undertaken?

Given straightforward, honest, credible and verifiable answers the electorate may be willing to give politicians the benefit of leadership.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has been scathing in its criticism of the EU budgets. As recently as Nov: 2012 the ECA chairman Victor Calderia wrote, “EU financial management is not yet up to standard”. There has been eighteen (18) years of critical reports on poor spending by the EU and yet it’s allowed to continue. Take my breath away! In the same report it was highlighted that the auditors did not give a clean bill of health to €89bn of spending because it was, “affected by material error”. For ‘material error’ read unaccounted for, lost, fraud or add your own interpretation.  Telegraph Nov: 2012.

Looking back to 1999 and the Jacques Santer Commission set up because a serving official made allegations of fraud. The Commission accepted that there had been ‘irregularities’. In patois, this means we ain’t got a clue mate! A few steps forward to a BBC report of 2006, “auditors have found some EU spending has violated regulation and/or contractual conditions”. Fraud!

Moving forward to June 2013 and the New York Times (NYT) report that a sum of €600m or $800m of direct aid from the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) “could not be properly traced because of the lack of an adequate audit trail, according to the European Court of Auditors”. The report also stated that a budget of €5bn in aid which had been agreed in Nov: 2012 was under scrutiny. That Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Policy Chief and Stefan Fule, Commissioner for the ENP were severely criticised for a failure to keep a grip on the spending even when ‘irregularities’ were known about. No one sacked-surprise, surprise!

In December 2013, quoting from the European Court of Auditors that €1bn had been agreed to support 61,000 civil servants and security personnel in Gaza since Hamas had taken power. The civil servants are kept on ‘gardening leave’ on full pay so that they are not tempted to work for Hamas. The ECA has argued that the payment should cease but Peter Stano of the EU executive wants the payments to continue otherwise those affected may have to go without.

The story is developed further in an article in the   a Lebanon daily newspaper who quote Hans Gustaf Wessburg of the ECA, “The payment of civil servants who do not work does not meet one of [EU’s] main objectives to provide public services to the Palestinian people”. The paper quotes further from Wessburg, “Auditors could not establish what happened to €90m that was meant to pay fuel taxes and keep Gaza’s only power plant running”. In consequence, half the people have no electric power supply.

A further dagger in the torso of the EU is that over the past twenty (20) years the EU has poured nearly €6bn into the Palestinian territories. This is a vast sum of money and, apparently a gross amount of waste. It is not a question of aid per se as I recognise that aid has a powerful political underpinning. It’s the sheer volume of the waste. Who is getting the money? What of the ordinary folk of this desolate landscape? “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”. T.S. Eliot The Waste Land.

It is also recognised that a €1bn package to help Egypt has been mismanaged between 2007/2013. What a sorry mess! If they can so readily and easily screw up aid money, what control do they have over all other spend?