As the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian territories, EU
taxpayers pay a fifth of the salaries of teachers, doctors and
bureaucrats in the small coastal territory, which has been governed
by the Islamist group Hamas since 2007.
But following an investigation into how EU aid is being spent, the
European Court of Auditors has found that large numbers of
recipients are providing no public service.
The court did not have overall figures on the size of the problem.
But in one spot check, 90 of the 125 employees at the National Audit
Institute of Palestine said they did not work.
In another sample, 40 percent of civil servants were not working, EU
auditor Hans Gustaf Wessberg, who led the inspections over the past
16 months, told a news conference.
"Our suggestion is to discontinue the program for employees in
Gaza," said Wessberg, saying the money could go to the West Bank
instead. "The payment of civil servants who do not work does not
meet one of (the EU's) main objectives to provide public services to
the Palestinian people."
Wessberg denied EU money was going to former prisoners or militants
and blamed the problem on the split in the Palestinian Authority
between Hamas in Gaza and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's
Fatah party in the West Bank.
The auditors looked into around 1 billion euros ($1.38 billion) of
spending in the Palestinian territories between 2008-2012.
Auditors could not establish what had happened to 90 million euros
that was meant to pay fuel taxes and keep Gaza's only power plant
running. Fuel shortages mean it has now ceased to serve nearly half
the 1.8 million population.
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Israel's on-off blockade of Gaza and Egypt's closure of around 1,200
tunnels that once linked the territory to the Sinai peninsula have
choked off a large amount of economic activity.
The auditors' report raises questions about the oversight exercised
by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is responsible
for overseeing EU aid programs.
But a Commission spokesman said many people were prevented from
going to work in Gaza, referring to the fragile security situation
in the strip, and needed financial support.
"If the Palestinian Authority is not paying these people, who is
going to provide for them? If you have people running around without
income, then of course, they are more prone to be taken by
extremists," said Commission spokesman Peter Stano.
The report follows an EU audit published in June that found that a 1
billion euro package of support for Egypt from 2007 to 2013 had been
Over the past two decades, the EU has given 5.6 billion euros to the
Palestinian territories. ($1 = 0.7261 euros)
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Luke Baker and Alistair Lyon)
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