From cash for rotten peaches in Greece to the desks that were never seen in Brussels, EU auditors uncover a litany of mismanagement and fraud

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The Independent Online
FARMERS CASH IN Farmers in Greece, Spain, France and Italy were overpaid for fruit and vegetables which were sub-standard or could not be sold. Italy accounted for 95 per cent of the irregularities formally reported, most of which concerned processed tomatoes. Greek farmers were overpaid by pounds 25m for peaches and nectarines sent for destruction because supervision at national level was so inadequate. Apple farmers in France were overpaid by pounds 2.5m for produce which was later pulped.

A STUDY IN INEPTITUDE The EU financed 26 studies on farming in Bulgaria at a cost of pounds 10m. Only one produced concrete results. Most were not even translated into Bulgarian and so were inaccessible to the agricultural operators who might have had any use for them. Asked to finance a vehicle for the Bulgarian agricultural ministry the commission purchased 20 cars - all of which were found unused by the auditors. Throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union consultants and experts were hired without tender.

SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL Training of students - who are not considered part of the labour market and are therefore not eligible under the European Social Fund - was financed in Italy at a cost of more than pounds 30m. In Greece almost pounds 70m was spent on training for civil servants instead of the young job seekers and the unemployed youths that the scheme was intended for.

pounds 40,000 FOR ONE - HOUR SPEECH European industry commissioner Martin Bangemann received DM 40,000 (pounds 20,000) for a one-hour speech at a seminar on regional development in the German region of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The seminar was co-financed by the European Commission.

In Belgium, 40 per cent of a pounds 1m small firms subsidy ended up with companies that were either bankrupt or facing liquidation.

The scheme was supposed to create up to 600 jobs: only 24 materialised.

INVISIBLE ASSETS Moveable assets, furniture, computers, etc valued at pounds 75m could not be properly accounted for. On 1 December, 1994 almost 28,000 pieces of equipment worth pounds 13m were listed as being in the Berlaymont building, the Commission's former HQ. The building had been completely evacuated three years previously. In its overseas delegations, the commission is financing a fleet of 500 cars which the auditors criticise as far too many.