EU funds tsunami aid disappeared (part I)

Editors’ Selection on 3 May , 2015

tsunami5EU funds tsunami aid disappeared
In search of ‘Permit A38’

The EU as well as the Netherlands has lost track about the tsunami aid funds. Actually this is the disease of development aid in general because output is not quantified. The entire sector should be reformed from the root because the system is extremely susceptible to fraud. Let me give you a glimpse of the diagnosis of this sector. The system of foundations is fragile and we should even fear for the effectiveness of international aid after natural disasters in Chile and Nepal.

tsunami61. The Information Act analysed
In The Netherlands citizens can appeal to the Information Act and thus claiming access to government documents which are public. In this way, the officials are forced to achieve output. This Information Act is a ‘vertical relation’ between state and citizens (Public Law). In The Netherlands, development funds is decentralized through foundations. This is the source of the problem, because foundations are not part of the government and as a result, they formally do not take part of this legislation. Foundations have a ‘horizontal relationship’ with citizens and consequently they only have to publish a short version of a financial balance (Private Law). This is without quantified details of output or track records. There is no stress or pressure to score quantified results or to put it to the test. As long as the records are covered, there are no problems. So to summarize: only a financial duty remains and even the development aid inspection and all imaginable brand labels are autistic focused on it. This is strange, because anyone who has worked in developing countries know that there is a serious trade in fake receipts while the middle class is being bribed in case of any tricky questions. Track records of NGOs in countries receiving aid, are never (social) scientifically proven, representing phantom trophies. I challenge the first NGO to proof, not to state, their full package of track record with solid and hard evidence by the approved scientific research methods. Even some winners of a Nobel Prize will default, I can assure you. (read more: Goede doelen onbetrouwbaar door gebrek aan Archiefwet).

tsunami22. The Information Act worldwide
I’ve thrown out my fishing rod to other countries for further orientation. Do they show similar deficiencies? Yes they do.

Youth Law Centre ACT

‘The Australian freedom of information legislation allows members of the public to request information from government bodies, but not from private charities. Members of the public can access some information about private charities on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) charity register.’

Büro Landesvolksanwalt

‘In the EU unique is the professional discretion in the constitutional status. The obligation act does also not exist in civil law in Austria.’

Justice Laws Website

‘The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government, see Access to Information Act.’

Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection / Bundesministerium des Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz

‘Everyone is entitled to official information from the authorities of the Federal Government in accordance with the provisions of this Act. This Act shall apply to other Federal bodies and institutions, see Federal Act Governing Access to Information held by the Federal Government.’

Chamber of Commerce, ICC Spain

– ‘Foundations are private entities, not administrative bodies.’
– ‘…there is no possibility to require private foundations to be treated as a public body, and demand them information that is private and not known to the general public.’
– ‘They have to hand out the accounts to the public Mercantile Registry every year and they have to be accounted, but there is no right of general public or specialized NGOs to inquire or interfere with the management of the foundation.’

Ministry of Justice / Regeringskansliet

‘In principle, all individuals in Sweden have the right to read official documents that are classified as public documents and not secret, which are held by public authorities. A document is public if it is held by a public authority.’

Federal Office of Justice FOJ / Bundesamt für Justiz BJ

‘We have in Switzerland with regard to the “Information Act” the same problem that arises in the Netherlands. Usually, foundations are legal entities according to the Swiss Civil Code (articles 80 ss.) and therefore not part of the administration/government (unless the specific foundation would have been created by law; thus in would be considered as a “public foundation”). Thus, with regard to “private foundations” you will have the same issue as in the Netherlands as the Information Act will not grant you the access to the financial information of such legal entities.’

United Kingdom
House of Commons Information Office

‘The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives you the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations. You can request information from some public sector organisations, e.g. government departments, and other public bodies and committees, local councils, schools, colleges and universities, health trusts, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, publicly owned companies, publicly funded museums, the police.’

United States of America
U.S. Department of State

‘The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applies only to federal agencies, see Information Access Guide.’

Preliminary conclusions
All countries show the same conflictive failure as appeared in The Netherlands. A very desolate result. Keeping these findings in mind I went to the EU and asked them to present me a list of output of the assistance given after the 2004 tsunami. Charity foundations worldwide are dipped in a system in which they are not required to show output. I am interested if this culture is assimilated by a government body like the EU. In other words, is Public Law infected by Private Law? In the Netherlands, state departments took over the culture of charity foundations, e.g. the Dutch inspection for development cooperation (IOB) only shows interest in waterproof accounts instead of actual output.

tsunami93. In search of ‘Permit A38’ within the EU

Let me first start with expressing that the EU is a monumental cumbersome and slow institute. It is a maze of bureaucratic paths that you must unravel. I would like to refer to task 8 (equivalent to ‘find Permit A38’) of the story ‘Asterix Conquers Rome’ (also known as ‘The Twelve Tasks of Asterix’ or ‘Les 12 Travaux D’Asterix’) – see 1. Task 8 takes Asterix and Obelix to a bureaucratic mission called The Place That Sends You Mad. If you read this story, you will recognise the EU instantly.

Total amount of aid
‘The European Commission and Member States pledged more than €2 billion in assistance for tsunami-affected countries of which €566 million is for humanitarian assistance and the remainder for rehabilitation and reconstruction.’
Source ‘The EU’s contribution to the international response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami’

The strange thing is, that besides this quote I am not able to find anything in the media about how much money the EU donated. My question to the EU on the total amount of assistance were never answered. This is the opposite of cooperation and it does not support the phrase ‘development cooperation’.

No document found

At the 4th of May 2015 the European Commission, Directorate-General Humanitarian Aid And Civil Protection ECHO, sent me an e-mail with subject: NO DOCUMENT FOUND.

The crucial passage: ‘We regret to inform you that no documents were found that would correspond to the description given in your application. In fact, in the framework of the humanitarian aid financed by this Directorate-General on behalf of the European Union after the tsunami occurred in 2004 in South-East Asia, only the provision of temporary shelters has been granted. Indeed, as specified in Article 2(3) of Regulation 1049/2001, the right of access as defined in that regulation applies only to existing documents in the possession of the institution. Given that no such documents have been identified, ECHO is not in a position to handle your request.’ (read letter HERE)

Of course, I registered a formal objection. I am still waiting for a respond…

Evaluation report 
The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition produced an evaluation report: ‘Joint Evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami: Synthesis Report‘. It is pretty much a run-of-the-mill synopsis. Nice data and sources for figures and tables like funding by country, donor type, et cetera. There are no lists of hardware that I am able to check, no lists of stakeholders who benefited and so on. Of course, I am not able to check a bag of flour. Obviously, this is not my intention. The report count 176 pages, it starts at page 24, Endnotes and other are from page 126. Page 24 to 40 is more or less an introduction about the situation. Remaining: page 40 to 126 (86 pages) but ‘Funding Flow’ is starting at page 80. Leaving 46 pages with vague statements like:

‘Private donations were concentrated on a relatively small number of agencies. While 202 NGOs received at least US$3.2bn from private sources – with 45 receiving more than US$10 million each – 50 per cent of the private donations (US$1.7bn) went to just 10 NGOs. Another 20 per cent was shared by the Red Cross Movement and UNICEF. Importantly, NGOs and the RC Movement were the primary beneficiaries of private funding, getting 91 per cent of all such funding.’

Only 46 pages Net are more or less evaluating millions of euro’s. This is no evaluation. The whole thing seems more like a university thesis rather than a scientific evaluation with evidence samples.

4. The Dutch Aid

Financial overview SHO membership and host organizations

Financial overview SHO membership and host organizations

Giro 555
Another Permit A38 is our Dutch Aid. The Samenwerkende Hulporganisaties (Dutch for Cooperating Aid Organizations) is a cooperative effort of aid organizations, popularly called Giro 555 (account number 555). The organizations work together to give humanitarian aid to people in disaster areas. Their Final Report about the tsunami aid can be read HERE. The people of The Netherlands raised €200 million with national campaigns. Only €5 million was donated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I asked Giro 555 the following question: ‘I’m interested in the approximately € 200 million that your organisation has spent on behalf of the Dutch people after the tsunami disaster. The public reports are fine, well differentiated by country and sector. Also a nice overview to the subcontractors who received your donations. I am especially interested in reconstruction. Do you have an overview of what has been built? Is there a list so I can check whether it actually exists. Or should I issue the relevant organizations? I hope not because I assume that you have shown interest in the actual implementation. Otherwise, you have no idea of what is delivered. Please send me a list of these buildings.’
Seems to me, a simple and realistic demand. There was no respond whatsoever, even after reminders. A bit disappointing, but this more or less disabled restriction is correct according to our Dutch Privat Law. But it also exposes the diagnosis of the disease of global development thinking.

When I e-mailed Giro 555 (using an alias) about donating money, I got an answer within 20 minutes.

Conclusion, recommendations

The Gang That Does Not Exist 
Let me take the education sector (Public Law). They must report actual output to the inspection and it is up to them if they perform an audit. This would also be good for development aid. Aid must be part of a control system that focuses on output and track record. The inspection can select relief for a common output/track record audit (say for convenience, that 5% of the development projects is a-select subjected to a test). Just looking at receipts, as is happening now, is no proof. Not even a little bit. Personally, I am not interested in a financial statement in summary (full details are never given anyway). The development sector never monitors the track record of NGOs in less developing countries. They take things easy as truth. When they work together, they both use the media as a platform for their phantom trophies. Sad human conditions have become a commodity (I call it: PR-shopping).

Furthermore, I believe that organizations must report what they have done. Not in terms of ‘70% spent on the fisheries’. This is too vague. Tsunami reports are loaded with these kind of statements. Citizens or journalists must be able to check it. 1000 toilets are built? Is there a list with 1000 ‘Google Earth’-coordinates? 100 thousand people received AIDS blockers? What are their names? Can they show me a list with names and is there no distortion like ‘during a burglary the list was stolen’ (I have witnessed the largest western donor fell for this excuse). Anyone can claim the figure of 100 thousand and receive a Nobel Prize. I know a Nobel Prize winner because of his track record that was never proven, despite of many warnings and invalidations.

I know how these things go; if you want to visit the toilets, they only show you about 50 of them. If you ask about the other ones, they tell you that you have to cross dangerous areas where they kill white people. Your request is being discouraged. Of you are persistent and you visit the toilets, they have been stolen by a vast and aggressive gang (in other words, there is nothing to see). Suddenly, they push you down in the car because they have spotted the so-called dangerous gang. White people are like a red rag to the Gang That Does Not Exist. Finally, they race back to a fictional safe zone. The NGO creates a thrilling Tintin book about your visit and as a result you become enthusiastic to continue the assistance. Back in the office, they show you a fake receipt of 1000 toilets.

Through a simple scientific sample, output can be proven. You don’t have to go off all 1000 toilets. If one would randomly select 50 of them as a bait, it would be sufficient. This is the same 5% coverage that could be handled by the inspection. Similarly, you can control things that are not covered by hardware such as a training. Who received this training? Can I search for these people? All these things are easy to report and thus easily verifiable. Distortions like the example of the Gang That Does Not Exist is just a well-oiled distraction.

A new way of development thinking
This case shows that Public Law is infected by Private Law up to the EU. This has a colossal and destructive impact on worldwide development thinking. In my opinion, charity foundations, NGOs and aid funds in each country must be part of the Public Law, allowing the Information Act also apply to them. The present system is extremely susceptible to fraud. I have serious doubt about the total impact of development aid as a whole. Therefore I can say that this article could also be written about any other implementation of relief. I’m afraid that for decades hundreds of billions are lost in aid. In fact, I have serious doubts about the impact of the entire development sector over the last fifty years worldwide.

Charity foundations are focused on financial records and accountants are not the best specialists to tag and label output. They view receipts and sum them together. Unfortunately, it is too easy to falsify receipts or to monopolize them with printed large sums for a seductive but small payment. Moreover, NGOs in the South have a wide network of bribed people who speak untruths if difficult questions arises during audits. Consequently, financial reports are presenting an incomplete and unreliable picture of what really happened.

I call on all countries to sharply adjust their Information Act of charity foundations.

Concerning the tsunami aid, we are left in the dark and we more or less need to believe the reports as presented. The good intention of these reports count heavily. Development aid is like religion: everyone believes in it without evidence. In a very persistent manner. If you ask for evidence you commit a kind of blasphemy. Officials should be more careful with this graceful sector.

In general, too much uncontrollable money is involved in developing aid with many interests on both the western and the southern side. Cash flow of such magnitude is asking for problem like an attitude to create phantom trophies. In the end, only good intentions stay in people’s mind.

In response to this article, the EU should reply with a serious explanation to the taxpayer (which they represent). I urge them to invalidate my findings by publishing a list of output. At present it is only possible to arrive at a judgement about where the money of the EU has remained. I have a very simple definition about the word ‘disappeared’. If one is not able to prove output, it disappeared. The EU’s contribution to the international response to the 2004 Asian tsunami of 2 billion euro’s disappeared and they are not able to justify where it went. It is outrageous and amateurish and completely fits the picture of Permit A38.

The same applies to Giro 555: €200 million lost.

Portret 2

AUTHOR: H.R.J. Sluijter MA
E-MAIL: info [at]



ad 1. Find Permit A38 in “The Place That Sends You Mad”. A mind-numbing multi-storey building founded on bureaucracy and staffed by clinically unhelpful people who direct all their clients to other similarly unhelpful people elsewhere in the building, which is also full of confusing corridors and steep stairs. They find a plan of the building, but still feel confused. Obelix goes nearly insane after some time, but Asterix eventually beats them at their own game by asking for an imaginary permit, A39 supposedly required by a new decree, “circular B65″, making the staff victims of their own unhelpfulness and sending the place into disarray. Eventually Asterix is given Permit A38 just to make him leave and stop causing trouble, while the person who gives them this goes insane from the shock of his own unthinkable helpfulness.


3 thoughts on “EU funds tsunami aid disappeared (part I)

  1. Job zegt:

    What a story !!!

  2. Jennifer McTigue zegt:

    Why am I not surprised?

  3. John X zegt:

    Well, it’s about bloody time someone wrote this. I worked at the Commission and I am telling you: this money is totally wasted. This should be on the front page of every newspaper

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