The European Union anti-fraud office OLAF is currently investigating more than twice as many cases of abuse and embezzlement of EU funds in Bulgaria compared with the previous record-holder year, 2009.
The information was reported Tuesday by the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, citing data they have received from OLAF.
The current probes involving funds from the agriculture program SAPARD and funds for farming subsidies and development of rural regions are 65, compared to 26 at the end of 2009.
In 2009, when Bulgaria ranked first among countries with violations, there have been a total of 68 EU funds abuse probes in Bulgaria while they have now reached 85.
After farming, the largest number of violations is noted in the structural funds used for regional development, funds for the environment, human resources, and the so-called "external assistance" funds slated by the EU for the development of third countries.
Official EU promotional video
The money paid by the Structural Funds is the EU´s second biggest source of funding after the Common Agricultural Policy. Billions of euros of tax payers´ money are distributed to over 646,000 projects across 271 regions in the 27 members states. Last year the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in cooperation with the Financial Times created a unique database tracking the money, which in many cases have gone into the pockets of criminals, inluding members of the mafia.
The Bureau, in collaboration with the Financial Times, has created the only comprehensive database tracking every penny distributed through the EU’s Structural Funds to date.
As Europeans face the uncertainty of swingeing government cuts, the European Union continues to spend. Its structural fund programme distributes €347bn of European taxpayers’ money across 271 regions in 27 countries.
Yet a web of bureaucracy has hidden this spending. Even MEPs have not had a truly transparent view of the organisations getting the funds.
Over eight months the Bureau and the FT have collected data relating to billions of euros to reveal, for the first time, the 646,000 recipients that have received the funds.
Our research reveals:
- How Italy’s most dangerous mafia, the ndrangheta, has become an expert at getting its hands on these funds
- A decentralised, cumbersome and weak system allows, and rarely punishes, fraud and misuse
- Millions of euros are going to multinational companies to help them move factories within the union despite guidelines discouraging this practice
- Funds have been used to finance a hotel building boom on protected nature reserves in Spain
- The lack of thorough checks means money is being wasted
- Some of the world’s largest companies are receiving funding despite the programme being aimed at small and medium-sized companies
"Europe's Missing Millions" - a BBC programme
Over the last seven years, the European Union has paid out billions of Euros in grants designed to revitalise Europe's poorest regions.
But an investigation for File on 4 has revealed the extent to which these payments are open to widespread fraud, abuse and mismanagement.
Angus Stickler tracks how money has gone astray across the 27 member states and asks why funding continues in regions with proven records of corruption and fraud. Throughout the EU there is evidence that money has been wasted or even stolen. In Southern Italy, money has gone to Mafia-controlled construction companies and bogus energy projects. Across the EU expensive projects lie unused and unfit for purpose, despite receiving funding of millions of Euros
Listen to the BBC File on 4 programme here.
Link to the FT and Bureau of Investigative Journalism structural funds database
The European Union has created an impervious bureacratic jungle, which - in spite of the efforts of its tiny anti-fraud office OLAF - is impossible to control. Therefore, one thing is certain: Waste and fraud will continue to grow, until the tax payers have had enough.