Saturday

25th Feb 2017

Up to €2.2bn of public funds stolen in eight EU states

  • An Olaf commissioned study identified bid rigging, kickbacks, conflict of interest, and deliberate mismanagement of EU funds in eight member states (Photo: wikipedia)

Up to €2.2 billion was stolen in public and EU funds in eight member states in 2010, according to a report commissioned by the EU anti-fraud agency Olaf.

The figures, released on Tuesday (1 October) at a European Parliament conference on corruption, represent the estimated overall direct costs of corruption in public procurement in five major sectors like construction and water treatment.

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.

The results of the study, conducted jointly by accountancy firm PwC EU Services and Ecorys with the support of the University of Utrecht, is based on a methodology that allows for the probability of corruption to be estimated for the product groups.

France, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and Spain were selected at random for the study.

Speaking at the conference, EU anti-fraud commissioner Algirdas Semeta, said the study proposes a new approach that focuses on calculating the costs of corruption.

“The study puts concrete figures to what we have long recognised as a threat to public finances and it confirms that once a procurement project is affected by corruption, the public losses increase substantially,” he said.

The study said the cost of corruption is equivalent to 3 to 4 percent of the total procurement budget.

“This seems at first sight a higher estimate than the commission first published two years ago,” said Semeta.

The commission put the estimate at 1 percent.

Semeta explained the difference because the study looked at eight member states in five specific sectors most exposed to risk of corruption.

“For the commission, its findings are a useful counterpart and we are committed into looking further into why so few cases are reported by member states,” he noted.

Member states reported nine cases of suspected or established corruption of EU funds in 2012.

He noted that the commission is finalising its first anti-corruption report due sometime in November. The report will look specifically at corruption into public procurement.

The Olaf-sponsored study was critical of the fragmented nature of public procurement procedures and lack of transparency. It noted that no organisation or body is tasked to fight corruption during the process.

Also missing is a national or EU-level authority to integrate all data public procurement for people to scrutinise.

Among the most common ways to steal money is to artificially inflate the price of a contract beyond the actual market value.

One case involves a procurement to reconstruct a historic city centre. The tender had a budget ceiling of €4.32 million. The only bidder submitted an offer for €5.4 million, which was rejected.

The procurement was then relaunched with the same bidder winning the €4.32 million contract.

But later on, costs increased by €1.08 million, making the price of the project the same as the company’s original offer.

Another case involves 10 civil servants from different municipalities who handed over confidential information to a construction company concerning several invitations to a tender on road projects.

In return for the confidential information, the civil servants were rewarded with cash and VIP seats at football matches and Formula One races and flight tickets to exotic destinations.

A legal revolution

To combat conflict of interests, the EU developed a definition, which they included in a revised version of the public procurement directive.

Tabled in 2011, the directive is under legislative scrutiny at the European Parliament.

A high-ranking commission official at the conference said the definition, which covers actual, potential or perceived conflict of interests affecting staff members of the contracting authority or of procurement service providers, would create a legal upheaval in some member states.

“I was told by a series of member states that such a broad concept would be a legal revolution in their systems,” said Joaquim Nunes De Almedia, director of the public procurement department in the commission’s directorate-general on the internal market.

The reformed directive includes setting up national oversight bodies to ensure contracts worth at least €1 million are properly implemented but De Almedia noted that corruption is largely a question of culture and of social acceptance of corrupt practices.

“To change this we need much more than new laws and new databases,” he said.

This article was corrected on Wednesday 2 October at 10:00. The original title 'Up to €2.2bn of EU funds stolen in eight member states' was changed to 'Up to €2.2bn of public funds stolen in eight member states'. The study looked at both national budgets and the EU budget

Germany seeks to harden EU border checks

German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said internal EU border controls should be imposed on security as well as immigrations grounds, shifting their legal basis.

Analysis

Why Romania erupted in protest

Current anger over corruption laws can be traced back to a night-club fire in 2015, when many died because of lax safety standards. Romanians then realised that corruption can kill.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  2. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  5. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  6. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  7. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  8. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  9. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty
  10. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  12. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean