Oslo (MTI) – Norway on Friday said it would continue to provide funding to Hungarian NGOs despite the Hungarian Government Control Office Kehi’s recent report indicating irregularities in the distribution of funds under the Norway grants scheme.
Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s EU affairs minister, told a press conference in Oslo that the country would continue supporting civil organisations as long as possible, but expressed criticism over “authoritarian, deeply concerning tendencies” in Hungary.
The minister said that Norway gave little credit to the Kehi report.
He said that Norway made it clear that it is the donor side’s duty to monitor the use of funds, adding that such a procedure was currently under way, AFP news agency reported.
Kehi said earlier this month that it had completed an investigation and revealed irregularities in 61 of 63 projects that had received funding from the Norway Grants. It said that it would submit a criminal report against Okotars, an NGO in charge of distribution of Norway Grants funding, on suspicion of mismanagement, budget fraud, forgery of private documents and unauthorised financial activity.
The Hungarian foreign ministry presented the report to the Norwegian ambassador, and cabinet chief Janos Lazar has invited the Norwegian minister in charge of the funds to Budapest for talks over the issue.
In response to the Kehi report, the Norwegian embassy said on its website that Norway refuses to accept the Kehi report.
“The Kehi audit of the NGO fund is in breach with the agreements governing the EEA-grants. No funds from the Hungarian state budget are at stake and the donors will not accept discussions based on this report. The donors will base their evaluation of the NGO fund on an independent audit,” it said.
“The agreements on the EEA and Norway grants will have to be respected by Hungary, as indeed they are by the other 15 recipient countries. The suspension of the grants can only be lifted when the issues of the management of the grants are resolved and the NGO fund and its operator are allowed to function as stipulated in the agreements on the EEA and Norway grants.”
“As soon as the Hungarian government expresses commitment to resolve the open issues, including a satisfactory solution for the NGO fund, Norway is willing to resume discussions to find solutions within the frame of existing agreements.”
Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein decided on May 9 to suspend further disbursement of funds to Hungary over concerns about the Hungarian government’s introducing changes to the distribution of grants through civil organisations.