Europe in turmoil: Costly Fiascos
Tuesday 16 March 1999
What is it? The European Community Humanitarian Office was set up in March 1992 to allow the EC to distribute quickly aid to trouble-torn areas. It has distributed pounds 2.5bn to Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan and Colombia.
What happened? Three companies received contracts to administer aid in former Yugoslavia and in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The work was never carried out and was described by investigators as "entirely fictitious".
How much? Some pounds 1.7m was siphoned away in wages and "irregular expenditure". Around pounds 420,000 is still unaccounted for.
Who was blamed? The Commission has placed the matter in the hands of the Luxembourg judicial authorities over its criminal aspects. One official of has been suspended, disciplinary proceedings are under way in relation to two others. A further senior official has also been suspended pending inquiries into links with Perry Lux, the Luxembourg-based parent company of the three involved.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
What is it? In 1995, the European Commission launched the Leonardo da Vinci programme to implement vocational training in member states. The five-year programme had a pounds 435m budget.
What happened? It was a gravy train par excellence including fraudulent expenses claims, over-inflated fees, unauthorised pay rises, cash paid to non-existent or "ghost" trainers, staff writing cheques to themselves, administrators awarding each other hundreds of thousands in loans, and nepotism.
How much? Auditors are still counting but pounds 40,000 a year went to Essex University for "scientific services" that never materialised. Other payments included questionable loans to staff totalling pounds 175,000, and one senior administrator wrote herself fraudulent cheques totalling more than pounds 25,000.
Who was blamed? Many were sacked but Edith Cresson was blamed because mishandling was "so serious and illustrative of a dysfunctional organisational climate and structure that they should have been seen by those who were in charge".
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