Log on, type in, grass up
The government has set up a website for informants to report anonymously on suspected misuse of EU funds. The move is another part of the government’s drive to restore public confidence by increasing the transparency of public finances.
At a press conference last Tuesday, the Minister for Local Government and Regional Development, Gordon Bajnai, introduced a new website (www.anti-lop.gov.hu) run by the National Development Agency (NFÜ). The site, whose name means “anti-steal”, is running for a one-month trial period, during which members of the public are being asked to inform the NFÜ if they become aware of any misuse of EU funds.
Quick on the take up
After one day online, the site had received 33 reports, which it now lists as being “under investigation”. When a report is made, the case is given a registration number and listed on the site. The NFÜ has pledged to deal with each case within 30 days. The information submitted through the site will initially be examined at the NFÜ by a specially formed in-house public reports department.
If the informants who have submitted accusations or suspicions so far are genuine, then the number of reports will provide cause for concern not only to the government, but also to
Cleaning up appearances
The government – particularly the senior coalition partner the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) – is desperate to regain lost credibility following a number of major scandals and countless rumours of impropriety. Last year there was the admission by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány that his party lied to the electorate “day and night” prior to the 2006 general election. A more recent scandal involves the former Socialist MP and head of the Bács Kiskun County MSZP János Zuschlag – currently on remand – and the alleged misappropriation of government funds. Another case involves Socialist councillor László Weiszenberger, who allegedly told an entrepreneur that applicants for EU money are expected to return part of the subsidy received to the ministry if they wish to get funds.
It is the heightened public awareness of the potential for misuse of EU subsidies in the wake of these cases that lies behind the “anti-steal” project.
The NFÜ website will also allow individuals and companies to bid for public procurement contracts and, along with the general public, follow the tender process online, said Bajnai.
‘Long tradition of informing’
The Minister for Regional Development acknowledged criticism that the web-based reporting system strengthens
The centre-right Fidesz party was quick to dismiss the internet initiative. Spokesman Péter Szijjártó immediately reacted by saying that a single webpage is insufficient to tackle the issue of transparency. He then reiterated a serious charge made by party leader Viktor Orbán earlier this year that the Socialist government has been systematically “stealing” EU funds.
The Fidesz spokesman demanded to know the fate of EU funds that have already been received, since “there are no visible signs of their use either in the economy or in people’s standard of living.”