BIRN: Corruption blocks EU funds for agriculture

2024-06-21 23:23:56 / POLITIKË ALFA PRESS

BIRN: Corruption blocks EU funds for agriculture
The European Union Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, officially announced that it has identified the misuse of 33 million euros of EU funds in aid of Albanian agriculture and recommended blocking the next package as long as there are no measures to guarantee the protection of the financial interests of EU.

The scandal has to do with the funds that the European Union has given for the agricultural and rural development of Albania through the Pre-Accession Assistance Instrument (IPARD II), and it started after some of the Albanian citizens who applied for funds, denounced the Albanian office for corrupt practices.

According to OLAF's press release, their investigation revealed that applicants were required to pay a high percentage of the grant to "pre-selected" consulting companies that facilitated the execution of contracts with the Albanian Rural Development Agency (ARDA), which distributed the funds. .

"After a series of investigative steps, including digital forensic searches of documents related to IPARD II beneficiaries, ARDA and other economic operators, OLAF discovered many serious irregularities during the grant awarding phase and the implementation of many projects," the announcement reads.

Among the irregularities identified was "the request made to applicants to pay a significant part of the grant to a local consulting company" as well as "contracts awarded without competition or with falsified competition" or "inflated prices and contract violations".

OLAF has recommended to the European Commission to declare calls one and two of the IPARD II program invalid. The total funds of these calls reach 33 million euros.

OLAF also recommends that the EU suspend the IPARD III program worth 112 million euros "until measures are taken to protect the EU's financial interests from illegal activities".

OLAF adds that a copy of the findings has been sent to the Albanian authorities due to "possible criminal activities" discovered during the investigation./ BIRN