The European court of auditors has criticised the EU for continuing to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip who have not worked for 6 years. A report in the Financial Times notes that the auditors have discovered "serious shortcomings in Brussels' management" of aid to the PA. The European Union is one of the biggest donors to the authority.
In mid 2007, civil servants in the Gaza Strip were ordered by the PA in Ramallah not to turn up for work in the government controlled by Hamas, which won the general elections in 2006. Those who obeyed the instruction have been paid their salaries by Ramallah ever since, despite not working.
According to the FT, the European Commission has defended the payments, describing them as a "political instrument" to keep the goal of the two-state solution alive. At a time of domestic austerity across Europe, says the FT, the auditors' findings will stir up a lot of debate.
The newspaper said that the EU has given around €2.9 billion to projects in the Palestinian territories since 2007. Aid through the "Pegase" project was aimed at supporting named Palestinian individuals, "circumventing the Hamas administration in Gaza". Hamas is regarded as a "terrorist" organisation by the EU and US. Most of that money, said the FT, around $1.4 billion, went directly to pay the salaries of PA civil servants. The payments "subsidised" those in the Gaza Strip who have not been working. Such payments to "non-performing civil servants", say the auditors, have no benefits for the Palestinian population. They recommend that the commission undertakes a "major review" of the aid programme.
In defences of its policy, the commission claims that stopping the salary payments would be "politically very sensitive".
A separate probe is looking into €1 billion of EU aid to Egypt intended to support the promotion of democracy and human rights. "Little evidence" has been found that this is achieving its aims.