OLAF probes Budapest development project

Parliament

The European Union's anti-fraud office, OLAF, has been screening public procurement deals connected to a refurbishment project that took place in central Budapest, in an investigation of alleged fraud and irregularities, the organization told MTI today.

“Negotiations on the audit of the ‘Heart of Budapest Program’ are currently under way” Felix Bubenheimer, Budapest communications office chief of the European Commission, said in response to a query from Hungarian online daily Index. He added that, until the screening is finished, no information would become public.

According to MTI, the state-run news agency, “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”. OLAF generally does not publish reports, but instead sends the information to the relevant authorities, attaching recommendations for any further actions.

The local government of Budapest's District 5 said they had provided OLAF with “all the necessary information” about the program, and were not aware of any complaints regarding the project, MTI added.

The Opposition Socialists called on Fidesz fraction leader Antal Rogán, the previous mayor of the district, to inform the public about deals of the district council under his tenure.

The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) called on Rogán to lift his lawmaker's immunity and face an investigation. Erzsébet Gy. Németh, DK's delegate in the Budapest Council, urged Budapest Mayor Istvan Tarlos to assist with the investigation, and argued that, while Rogan's district was in charge of one component of the HUF 15 bln program, the two other components were tied to the City of Budapest, controlled by Tarlós’ office.

The governing Fidesz party said OLAF had screened parts of the project that had been overseen by the Socialist-Free Democrat coalition-led municipality of Budapest. “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 HUF 300 mln and HUF 600 mln less than planned,” MTI added.

Opposition Together party urged an investigation by the chief prosecutor's office. In December former district council member Péter Juhász named Rogán in an alleged real estate scam. On January 15, Juhász said that "[District 5 Mayor Péter] Szentgyörgyvölgyi and the whole Fidesz mafia will resign from the leadership of District 5", and charged them with the mishandling of the district's property.

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