Hungary squanders HUF 40 billion EU social fund one billion at a time

October 28, 2015

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The namesakes of various social programs funded by the EU social fund are turning over in their graves, according to opposition LMP politician Ákos Hadházy.

At a press conference held on Monday the anti-corruption crusader announced that HUF 1 billion (USD 3.7 million) taken from a HUF 40 billion ($148 million) EU fund set up to improve the plight of Hungary’s 700,000 Roma had effectively disappeared without a trace.

The following day he explained to ATV’s Egon Ronai that the HUF 1 billion was taken from the “State Reform Program” of the so-called “Social Renewal Fund”.  HUF 100 million was given to the Countrywide Roma Local Government (ORÖ) and HUF 900 million to the Türr István Training and Research Institute (TKKI), a background institution of the Ministry of Human Resources and which aims to close the gap between groups of differing social status.

Hadházy says TKKI has refused to answer formal requests for information about how the HUF 1 billion was spent. However, the LMP (Politics Can Be Different) politician has learnt that TKKI spent some HUF 550 million (USD 2 million) on “personnel-related costs”.

Of the HUF 100 million given to the Countrywide Roma Local Government, the bulk was spent creating phantom organizations and building professional networks that only exist on paper, according to Hadházy, who called for the dismissal of government Commissioner for Roma Affairs, former ORÖ chairman Flórián Farkas.

Hadházy also called for an end to wasteful programs that have no measurable affect on the plight of Hungary’s Roma, and announced that he would report the alleged misappropriation of EU funds to the authorities.

A “hair-raising” story

On Tuesday Hadházy told an astonished Ronai that HUF 550 million of the HUF 1 billion was spent by TKKI on “personnel-related costs”.

Hadházy then explained how the rest of the money was spent HUF 25 million at a time, presumably so as to avoid the need for public tenders.

For example, TKKI reportedly spent HUF 22 million “developing curriculum”, including a manual for skinning and butchering rabbits reportedly plagiarized from material previously published in the United States, right down to the recipe for making “almond rabbit”.

Of the HUF 100 million given to the Countrywide Roma Local Government, HUF 25 million was allegedly spent on the creation of a “Publicly useful Roma temporary employment brokerage network”.  In addition to being “absurd”, Hadházy claims no such network exists.

He says EU funds were also used to set up a “Roma education technical service institutional network”.  The LMP politician says there is no trace of it on the internet. “It only exists on paper,” says Hadházy.  “Farkas Flórian is on record saying they would use this money to purchase a limited liability company that deals with education.  It never happened.”

Hadházy says another HUF 25 million was spent setting up a “Roma government procedural network coordination network” (sic) which, like the employment brokerage network, doesn’t really exist according to him.  “ORÖ got the money in order to organize a public tender.  They ended up awarding the project to themselves and using it to create something called the Roma National Cultural and Employment Methodology Institutional Network, which they made themselves.”

However, money squandered by ORÖ appears to be chump change compared to money spent by TKKI organizing various training programs at ORÖ’s behest. Hadházy claims the bulk of the HUF 900 million (USD 3.75 million) was spent on two trainings.

One was a 30-hour training for 1,200 people titled “Social acceptance strengthening methodology training”, the purpose of which was to teach Roma how to behave so as not to fall victim to discrimination.  According to government literature, the program resulted in “the strengthening of non discriminatory behavior in society, an increase in social equality, and a decreased disparity in education”.

Hadházy treats such rosy assessments with skepticism.

Another program, the so-called “One thousand Roma woman” reportedly trained some 1000 Roma over two months how to be child-care technicians at a cost of HUF 700,000 (USD 2,600) per head.