Answer given by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner on behalf of the Commission
Since 1994, the Commission has provided around EUR 2.3 billion to the Palestinian people, mainly outside of the Palestinian Authority (PA). This includes support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), humanitarian assistance through the Humanitarian Aid Directorate-General (ECHO), Food Security, Middle East peace process actions, and support to health, education and institution building.
The Commission attaches the highest importance to financial control and takes all steps necessary to ensure that support provided to the PA is used appropriately. The Commission includes the necessary audit provisions in order to get the highest possible level of assurance. In addition, the Community is providing significant (EUR 4-5 million) technical assistance to reinforce the capacities of the internal audit and financial control departments of the PA, as well as modern Information Technology (IT) equipment to ensure the effective functioning of these departments. The PA’s accounts are audited by an independent private external audit firm.
In addition, in the context of the European neighbourhood policy cooperation with the EU there are specific chapters in the EU‑PA joint action plan on judicial reform, public administration reform and improvements in financial accountability and sound management of public finances which requires a concerted effort by the Palestinian Authority to tackle corruption and fraud.
For further information on investigations into possible misuse of EU funds, the Commission refers the Honourable Member to the European Parliament Working Group report and conclusions, as well as the statement from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) following their extensive investigation into alleged irregularities concerning EC assistance to the PA. The Commission is following up all recommendations. The Commission also refers the Honourable Member to the reply given to Written Question E‑4712/05 by Mr Tatarella.