Thursday

28th May 2020

€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. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

Coronavirus

ECB promises (almost) whatever it takes

The eurozone's central bank has promised to buy up to €750bn of government and private bonds in new pandemic counter-measures.

Opinion

What does coronavirus 'Black Swan' mean for markets?

Falling demand and prices for oil and raw materials will revive the risk of deflation. The collapse in international trade and long-term rethinking of China's role as the major hub for the production of consumer goods and electronics is inevitable.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU Commission's €1.85trn recovery package - key points
  2. Why developing countries may be last to get the vaccine
  3. Budapest to EU: 'Sorry seems to be the hardest word'
  4. EU Commission's green recovery criticised as 'brown'
  5. Mix of loans and grants in Commission €750bn package
  6. EU recovery agreement deal may need 'personal' summit
  7. Little love, as Berlin bids 'auf Wiedersehen' to Trumpism
  8. Future of Europe Conference: Council urged to move now

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us