-The European Union has determined that its multi-billion-euro aid program to the Palestinian Authority must be reformed.
An EU report said Brussels has failed to hold the PA accountable for the 5.6 billion euro over the last 20 years. The report by the Court of Auditors said the EU was paying former civil servants salaries in the Gaza Strip.
“There is a need for major revisions such as encouraging the PA to undertake more reforms, notably in relation to its civil service,” the report, authored by Hans Wessberg, said.
Released on Dec. 11, the report, titled “European Union Direct Financial Support to the Palestinian Authority,” marked the first EU acknowledgement of criticism by parliamentarians and non-governmental organizations. The report, based on a six-month audit in 2012, cited an increase in the number of Palestinian recipients, many of them retiring civil servants.
“The lack of performance indicators also makes it more difficult to demonstrate results in order to attract new funding,” the report said.
The EU, which focused on 2008 and 2012 was said to have been paying 20 percent of the salaries of the civil servants in the Gaza Strip, taken over by Hamas in 2007. In one spot check, 90 out of the 125 recipients acknowledged that they no longer worked. The PA was said to employ 170,000 people.
“Our suggestion is to discontinue the program for employees in Gaza,” Wessberg told a news conference. “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.”
The EU, which failed to prevent Palestinian corruption, also acknowledged that it lost track of at least 90 million euro allocated for the Hamas regime to purchase fuel for electricity generation in the Gaza Strip. Officials said the EU, in a program called Pegase, was hampered by lack of access to the Gaza Strip as well as failure to demand accountability from the PA.
“Pegase DFS is provided to the PA without conditionality,” the report said. “Despite the importance of this issue, there was no transparent reference to Pegase DFS being used to pay non-performing workers in any of the commission’s financing documentation for the annual programmes.”
The European Commission, however, indicated that EU funds to the Gaza Strip would continue. The commission did not say whether any changes in the aid program would be implemented.
“The issues surrounding the civil servants who are not able to work in Gaza are complex in the circumstances prevailing in the Gaza Strip,” the commission said. “The commission and the EEAS [European External Action Service] consider that the PA must continue supporting its workers in Gaza as a key element of maintaining its presence in Gaza and the unity of a future Palestinian state.”