The European Commission has temporarily suspended payments of several million euro in regional development funding for urban development and tourism projects after an audit found problems in management and control of the funds.
Notice of the suspension of the funds was given in a June 3 letter and the suspension will continue until the irregularities are corrected.
The EC action follows a similar suspension of funding under enviroment operational programme funds – and comes after Bulgaria was announced to be facing an infringement procedure over the South Stream gas pipeline project and, separately, an EC report on Bulgaria’s national reform programme and convergence programme for 2014 said that government estimates about economic growth were unjustifiably optimistic, while the country was failing to reform several key sectors and was showing a lack of progress against corruption.
All of these reverses are coming against the resounding defeat of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, current holder of the mandate to govern, in Bulgaria’s May 25 2014 European Parliament elections.
Daily Sega quoted sources as saying that problems had been found in tenders in the municipalities of Bourgas and Assenovgrad and at the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy, as well as irregularities in the purchase of fire engines by the Interior Ministry. “They reminded us that during the GERB government, there was no similar suspension of payments,” the Sega report said.
Authorities in Sofia will have to send a formal report on measures taken before a decision is taken on the resumption of spending.
In a June 4 statement, the Regional Development Ministry said that payments had been frozen in regard to “integrated sustainable urban development” and “sustainable tourism development” projects. According to the ministry, the sum involved was about 90 million euro. Earlier, reports had given the sum as 640 million leva (about 320 million euro).
Suspension had followed the findings of a routine audit of the operational programme, the ministry said. The audit had examined a sample of projects implemented in the period 2010 to 2013, according to the ministry. During that time, GERB was in government.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)