And So It Goes…#1009


There comes a point, and in any event we are in fact way,way past it, where reiterating the same arguments,exposing the same facts,re-heating the same revelations that had once initially shocked us just becomes tedious.

It is axiomatic that within the European Union the further east and south east that you go,the greater the increase in fraud and corruption there is in any given member state. However, even before the annexation,sorry accession, in 2004 and 2007 of the virtual entirety of the economically moribund and socially sclerotic former post-1945 communist states – institutionalised fraud and corruption abounded in stalwart EU member states such as Portugal,Spain,Greece and Italy.

The litany of antiquated,clapped out rustbelt national economies includes those of the former baltic Soviet republics – Estonia,Latvia,Lithuania, parts of the Yugoslav federation -Croatia ,Slovenia alongside Poland,Hungary,Czechia,Slovakia,Romania and Bulgaria.

Many of these never came close to passing all the absurd and ultimately unenforcible standards of governance and financial probity insisted upon by the EU as necessary preconditions to being admitted into full EU membership.

The online euobserver carried a brilliant piece on October 5 2018 highlighting just how unfathomable the murky depths of fraud and corruption still are and that essentially the EU itself is wholly incapable of even beginning to address in any effective and cogent manner.

Herewith an extract.

The leader of Romania’s Social Democrat party maintains he is innocent.

But, according to Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), Liviu Dragnea created an organised criminal group and defrauded EU structural funds.

Romania’s fraudbusters had help in their case from the Brussels-based European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf).

“Olaf conducted thorough investigations that we hope will have a strong deterrent effect,” said the office’s then acting director-general Nicholas Ilett in November 2017, when the accusation of the DNA was announced.

Whether that deterrent effect will occur remains to be seen.

If proven, the Dragnea case – which is still ongoing – would only be one of many examples of the EU’s regional support fund being hit by fraud last year.

“Fraud involving EU structural funds remained at the core of Olaf’s investigative work in 2017,” the office said in its annual report.

By the end of last year, 73 of Olaf’s 362 ongoing investigations were specifically on structural funds – making it the largest category four years in a row.

Other annual reports, by the European Commission, also indicate that cohesion funds are a significant target for criminals. Why is that?

Part of it has to do with the fact that regional support simply makes up a large share of the EU budget, Ilett told EUobserver in June, when he was still acting director-general of Olaf.

Some correlation between amount of spending and level of fraud is to be expected. “Of course it is more complex than that. It’s also inherent in the nature of the spending,” he said.

“There is a system of shared management and that also can constitute a risk. Because there are more people involved in the decision-making process and you can have decisions taken quite locally, where there may sometimes be a risk of a lack of control, and a risk of patronage, nepotism, corruption at the local level,” noted Ilett.

Mihaly Fazekas, researcher at Cambridge University, agreed, and pointed to the large amount of discretion given to local and regional authorities in distributing the EU funds.

“If you have a corrupt elite, discretion is good,” the researcher told EUobserver. “If you have a friend who happens to build stadiums, you will build a stadium even if the village has no football club which is in the first league or no one watches football.”

Paradox

Fazekas is more of an expert on corruption than on fraud, but the two issues are closely related.

He noted that the plethora of administrative requirements for recipients of EU funds have an adverse affect. “While bureaucratic controls try to decrease corruption, inadvertently they make market entry harder – reduce the number of bidders, hence make corruption more likely,” said Fazekas.

How much money is actually being defrauded from the annual EU budget for cohesion policy – and whether the problem is increasing – is hard to determine, according to Olaf’s Ilett. “It’s very difficult to measure over time. It’s one of the things we know that we don’t know,” he noted.

The commission’s Protection of the European Union’s financial interests reports, or Pif reports, give some indication.

The report on 2017 said that EU member states reported a total of €320m of cohesion policy and fisheries funding as fraudulent irregularities. The 2016 figure was €237m, also for cohesion policy and fisheries combined. In 2015, when cohesion policy was still counted separately, member states reported €477m in fraudulent irregularities.

But Olaf’s Ilett said the figures needed to be interpreted cautiously because there is no harmonised approach.

“The trouble with the PIF report figures is that it contains what the member states have declared, and within that there is a category of what they think is fraudulent,” he said.

And there you have it – the Anti Fraud office don’t know how much has gone missing  or how much is still going missing,where its going missing let alone who might be responsible for it going missing.

We need to get out of this insane asylum asap by way of the door marked Brexit;don’t you think?

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