22nd Oct 2016

€1bn of EU aid to Congo wasted, auditors say

  • EU police training in DRC: 'no trace' of the 1,000-man force exists (Photo: EUSEC)

At least €1 billion of EU aid poured into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in recent years went down the drain, auditors say.

The EU spending watchdog, the Court of Auditors in Luxembourg, published the finding in a report out on Tuesday (1 October).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Looking at €1.9 billion worth of 16 aid projects in the vast, troubled, country between 2003 and 2011, it said: "Fewer than half of the programmes examined have delivered, or are likely to deliver, most of the expected results."

It added that even those projects which hit targets are likely to vanish without trace, noting that: "Sustainability is an unrealistic prospect in most cases."

The court's Hans Gustaf Wesseberg told press that, in one example, the EU paid for a new court house and prisons in eastern DRC, but "the number of buildings planned was simply too large and the Congolese authorities have no money … to sustain them."

He said the EU in 2005 also helped to equip and train a police force of some 1,000 officers, "but when we came down there and checked [in 2012], we could find no sign of that police force any longer … we could find no trace of it."

Aside from drafting "overly ambitious" projects, the court said the European Commission and the EU's External Action Service (EEAS) overlooked the risk of corruption.

"The programme documents do not mention a number of major risks - notably the lack of political will, fraud and corruption - which are a serious matter for concern," the report said.

It noted that, in terms of financial aid during 2011 elections, the EU blind spot means "the support provided by the international community … risks being perceived as contributing to regime entrenchment to the detriment of the population."

Wesseberg urged the commission and the EEAS to learn from its mistakes when drawing up aid plans for the 2014 to 2020 period.

He also noted that DRC-type errors exist in other EU programmes in problem countries.

The auditors back in June also said some €1 billion of EU funding for Egypt in 2011 to 2013 vanished into a black hole, chiefly due to Egyptian state corruption.

The court's DRC report contained a "reply" from the commission and the EEAS which rebuffed many of its recommendations, however.

"In the context of this extremely fragile state [DRC], the commission considers that promising intermediate results have been achieved," it said.

"The risk of non-engagement in the context of the DRC can outweigh most risks of engagement. The commission and EEAS views are that EU co-ordination is working well in the DRC," they added.

The Luxembourg-based court is best known for its negative yearly assessments of overall EU bookkeeping standards.

But for his part, EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy in a speech to the auditors on 13 September said it should keep in mind the bad PR which its criticism generates for the Union.

"Your reports are not released into a void but into the rough and tumble of political life and media reporting," he said.

“Given this media handling of information, and its impact on public opinion in some countries, the court might want to give some further thought as to how it can encourage more nuanced reporting," he added.


Europe ready to tackle Greek debt relief

The Greek government has built and broadened alliances in EU institutions and member-states that acknowledge the need to restructure the debt and deliver another economic model for the eurozone.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity