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Parliament cracks down on LEONARDO fraud

The European Parliament has voted to accept the common position on the second phase (2000-2004) of the European Union's LEONARDO vocational training programme with amendments to ensure quality training and to tighten up controls over the programmes, particularly to prevent fra...

The European Parliament has voted to accept the common position on the second phase (2000-2004) of the European Union's LEONARDO vocational training programme with amendments to ensure quality training and to tighten up controls over the programmes, particularly to prevent fraud. In the debate, Susan Waddington reminded MEPs that the LEONARDO programme had been singled out for detailed scrutiny by the Independent Enquiry Committee, which had discovered "mismanagement, fraud, secrecy and nepotism" "The Commission has let us down," she said. Beneficiaries have not received a proper entitlement as a result of mismanagement by the contractor. The Education Committee tabled amendments designed to ensure that this would not happen again, and, in fact, the administration would be carried out by the Commission's services. The LEONARDO programme was important as "a laboratory for innovation". It brought real benefits to citizens by enabling best practices to be copied and offering mobility in the area of vocational training. It was important to switch the emphasis to ensure that disadvantaged groups and the disabled would be able to benefit in the future, said Mrs Waddington. Replying for the European Commission, Erkki Liikanen stated that he could accept 30 of the 33 amendments tabled. He was unable to accept the amendment calling for the development of a permanent dialogue with the relevant non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing the interests and groups concerned by the programme. Also, he could not accept the amendment, which sought to delete reference to the technical assistance organisations (TAOs), and to define the roles of the temporary staff recruited to carry out operational duties. He stated that he would be responding in writing to this amendment, but he could not accept the abolition in principle of the TAOs. He did nevertheless accept the need for rules governing the correct management of funds and that there should be a role for external authorized auditors. The common position was adopted with amendments that sought to ensure quality training and to tighten up controls over the programmes. However, the amendment that sought to delete reference to the TAOs was not passed.

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