Romania Accuses MPs of Defrauding Roma Projects

Romanian authorities are investigating two lawmakers for fraud related to the misuse of EU funds designed to support underprivileged Roma communities.

A poor neighborhood in Bucharest where many Roma people live | Photo: BIRN - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/roma
A poor neighborhood in Bucharest where many Roma people live | Photo: BIRN

 

The law committee of the Romanian Parliament on Monday approved the arrest and prosecution of two deputies, Madalin Voicu and Nicolae Paun, who are being investigated for fraud related to EU-funded projects designed to assist the Roma community. Anti-graft prosecutors say that Voicu and Paun, both Roma themselves, together with other ten people, defrauded two projects aimed at training underprivileged people.

Some 6,300 young people or people belonging to vulnerable social groups were supposed to be trained in social entrepreneurship initiatives. In reality, the target groups either did not get proper training or did not take part in projects at all. Meanwhile, those employed to run the projects were paid big salaries, without doing any work in some cases. The EU paid around 5.4 million euro for the projects while the Romanian authorities invested another 0.6 million euro. Both Voicu and Paun denied any wrongdoing.
Paun’s Roma Party received some 300,000 euro for the two projects. All those those employed to carry out the projects had to pay a percentage of their salaries to the party. Voicu and his wife received close to 100,000 euro. He was allegedly paid to use his influence to get the projects approved for EU financing. In a related development, last week Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos dismissed the head of the tax authority and his deputy, as both are being investigated for favouring the perpetrators of the offences and for abuse of office.

Investigators say the former tax bosses issued two orders exempting the payment of healthcare contributions by people who were fictitiously employed by the Roma Party. Human rights groups have often accused Romania – home to up to 2.5 million Roma, or roughly a sixth of the population – of not doing enough to improve their living standards or job prospects.

Both Romania and the EU have earmarked funds for the better integration of the Roma, Europe’s largest ethnic minority. Romania is still considered one of the most corrupt states in the European Union and has made only limited progress in fighting corruption and organised crime since it joined the EU in 2007.

Balkan Insight 
16 February 2016