Budapest, January 23 (MTI) – The European Union’s anti-fraud office has screened public procurement deals connected to a refurbishment project of central Budapest, for alleged fraud and irregularities, the organisation told MTI on Friday.
OLAF also said that it had sent its recommendations to the European Commission, as well as to the Hungarian public prosecutor’s office, but did not disclose any details of its findings. As a general rule, OLAF does not publish its reports but sends them to relevant authorities with a recommendation to take further measures.
The local government of Budapest’s District 5 told MTI in a statement that they had provided OLAF with “all necessary information” about the Heart of Budapest programme, but they were not aware of any complaints about the scheme.
The opposition Socialists demanded that Antal Rogán, group leader of ruling Fidesz, who had been mayor of District 5, should “make a clear breast” and tell the public about the deals of the district council under his tenure.
Socialist deputy chair Zoltán Lukács referred to “several dozen instances” when OLAF had signalled its suspicion to the Hungarian prosecutor’s office, but insisted that the chief public prosecutor would not reveal what cases the European organisation had singled out. The public prosecutor “must not hide behind the excuse that they cannot provide information about investigations under way”, Lukács said, and argued that the cases involved “grave crimes of corruption”, which the public must be informed about.
The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) called on Rogan to give up his lawmaker’s immunity and face an investigation.
Erzsébet Gy Németh, DK’s delegate in the Budapest Council, also called on Budapest Mayor István Tarlós to assist with the investigation, and argued that while Rogan’s district was in charge of one component of the 15-billion forint (EUR 41m) programme, the two other components were tied to the City of Budapest, controlled by Tarlós’s office.
The Together party urged an investigation by the chief prosecutor’s office.
Governing Fidesz said in response that OLAF had specifically screened parts of the project managed by the municipality of Budapest, which was then governed by a Socialist-Free Democrat coalition.
The party said that projects implemented at the time by the municipality of Budapest had exceeded the costs originally calculated, whereas the two parts carried out by District 5 under Rogan’s leadership had cost 300 million and 600 million forints less than planned, Fidesz said in a statement.