Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

€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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Investigation

Congolese tensions spill onto streets of Brussels

Post-electoral tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo spilled onto the streets of Brussels on Monday, with angry supporters of opposition presidential candidate Etienne Tshisekedi damaging vehicles and briefly occupying the EU capital’s inner ring-road.

Investigation

Congo's conflict minerals divide EU opinion

The exploitation of certain minerals in eastern Congo is fueling the region's ongoing conflict, but the EU's response is still unclear.

Investigation

Congo fatigue: EU funding in the heart of Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo was last year the largest recipient of EU support among ACP states. But critics say this approach has failed, drawing a question mark over the EU's next step.

News in Brief

  1. Orban wants bill to tighten grip over theatres
  2. Dutch reduce terror threat level for first time since 2013
  3. Russia banned from Olympics over doping scandal
  4. EU agrees future human rights sanctions
  5. Greens demand Zahradil conflict of interest probe
  6. EU commission to 'correct mistake' on enlargement
  7. Luxembourg pushes EU to recognise Palestine
  8. Minister: 'All Brussels kids should be trilingual at 18'

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us