EU budget support to Palestinian Authority under the spotlight

A boy carries a bag of flour from the European Commission and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The European Union's budget support to the Palestinian Authority has come under fire when a special report alleged that civil servants whose salaries were paid with the bloc's development funds were actually not performing any job at all. Photo by: ECHO / CC BY-NC-ND

Should the European Union continue paying civil servants that don’t report to work in Palestinian Authority?

Last week, a special report published by the European Court of Auditors alleged that civil servants whose salaries were paid with EU development funds were actually not performing any job at all. The revelation prompted the aid community to debate whether this a proper use of the money, even if — as European Commission spokesman Peter Stano and Palestinian labor minister Ahmed Majdalani argued — it serves a humanitarian purpose.

We asked Devex members on Facebook and LinkedIn how they felt about the issue.

“If the aid was intended as payment of salaries as part of the EU budget support, then those civil servants should work according to the agreement. If the EU wants to contribute to a social safety net payments as part of a humanitarian aid package, that is also fine,” commented one reader, who also pointed out that the assistance should not have been earmarked toward a group of elites, as “this is definitely a sign of a lack of integrity on the EU’s part, and setting a bad precedent for other budget support.”

Another follower suggested that disguising aid as employment “undermines trust, damages the EU’s reputation and, ultimately, lessens the effectiveness of its aid program.”

One reader noted that this is not a new problem, and complained that “donors continue to pour money in with a view to appearing to do something rather than nothing.”

“Much more use of local NGOs and local government structures is the logical response — but neither the Israelis who fear covert funding of resistance, nor the Palestinian elite which fears the loss of power and patronage — would be likely to countenance this on a large scale,” he added.

Yet another member said that “simply giving money to host country government or government agencies or even NGOs is a strategy that has always had mixed results.”

When donors fail to help guide policy and program direction, set and monitor clear management (including financial management) guidelines and oversee the use of resources, the result is “an extremely lazy form of development investment,” he noted.

“Technical and managerial weaknesses are among the problems that need to be addressed in these … resource-poor settings, and simply substituting donor cash for local budgets is no substitute for engagement. This would be true in many places, not just Palestine.”

What do you think? Please let us know by leaving a comment below or joining our LinkedIn discussion.

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About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.