Budapest, February 9 (MTI) – János Lázár, the government office chief, has called Budapest’s metro 4 construction “the gravest corruption case” in the past few decades. The government will propose legislation for restoring restrictions to the free movement of migrants while their asylum applications are assessed, Lázár said.
Metro 4 project ‘worst corruption case’ in recent decades
Lázár told a weekly news briefing that the European Union’s anti-fraud office (OLAF) had reviewed contracts worth a combined 400 billion forints (EUR 1.3bn) in connection with the metro project and found “problems” concerning 272 billion forints. He insisted that 166 billion forints may have been spent illegitimately and that the city would have to refund 59 billion forints to the European Union unless it contested the findings of the OLAF report within 60 days.
Lázár also suggested that the 166 billion forint total contained 77 billion forints from the central budget, which the government could reclaim.
He said the current city management had nothing to do with these contracts and Mayor István Tarlós had made every effort to increase transparency. At the same time, the contracts signed in the era of the previous mayor Gábor Demszky were most likely affected by fraud, mismanagement, abuse of influence and collusion, he insisted. The public prosecutor’s office has started investigations into some of these cases, he said.
Commenting on criticism surrounding the OLAF report, he said the opposition interprets the OLAF report as “the Bible” when it finds ruling Fidesz at fault. However, when the opposition Socialists-Free Democrats are affected by the report, then they describe it as a botched work, he added.
Meanwhile, Lázár said the cabinet had decided to allocate 33.3 billion forints for raising wages of employees of church-run and other non-state-run social institutions and 7.4 billion forints for raising the wages of graduates working in social services. It was also decided that all employees in social services who hold health-related jobs should be paid in line with the wage scale used in the health-care sector, Lazar said.
Government to scale back fostered jobs programme
Lázár said Hungary’s government has decided to downsize the country’s fostered jobs scheme over the next five years, gradually reducing the number of participants from an average of 216,000 to 100,000. The government is allocating 40 billion forints to support the placement of fostered workers into private-sector jobs, he added. He said there were currently 37,000 unfilled jobs for unskilled workers. Jobseekers will be obliged to take any available job within the administrative district they reside in and can participate in the fostered job scheme only if no other jobs are available, Lázár said.
Government support to new gynaecology clinic where abortions are banned
Also, the government is providing 7.8 billion forints in support for setting up a new gynecology clinic in Budapest that will refuse to perform abortions, he said. Doctors at the new clinic established in cooperation by the Bethesda Children’s Hospital and the Budai Irgalmasrendi Hospital will not be allowed to accept tips, Lázár added.
Lázár announced that Hungary will apply to become the host country for the London-based European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency when Britain exits the European Union, he said.
Commenting on a report by ombudsman László Székely stating that the government decision to require an intermediate-level language exam as a pre-condition for entering higher education had been badly prepared, Lázár disagreed with Székely. The six-year preparatory period for the introduction of this requirement should be sufficient and the government should not withdraw the decision because it is an important step in improving the quality of higher education and language training, he added.
Government to restore migrant detention
Asylum seekers in Hungary will be required to remain in shelters during the crisis situation linked to mass migration, Lázár told a regular press briefing.
Containers with spaces for 200-300 people altogether will be set up at the border. Asylum applicants will be expected to stay there and wait for their requests to be assessed. The conditions for court procedures will also be made available at these locations via electronic communications, Lázár added.
Migrants without a permit to stay in Hungary will be stopped at any location in the country, not only in the 8 km zone within the border, he said.
If the migration situation deteriorates, a second fence will be built at the border, he said.