Revisiting the BBC’s 2013 PA funding audit story

In December 2013 the BBC News website reported the conclusions of EU auditors in relation to funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority. Audiences were told that:

“European auditors say the EU should stop paying the salaries of thousands of Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip who are not going to work.

The auditors examined about 1bn euros (£840m; $1.3bn) of EU spending in Gaza between 2008 and 2012.

They called for a major review, saying money spent on civil servants there should go to the West Bank instead. […]

The EU pays about one-fifth of the salaries of the PA’s 170,000 civil servants, both in the West Bank and Gaza, under a programme known as Pegase.

Hans Gustaf Wessberg of the European Court of Auditors said overall EU funding had played an important role in supporting vulnerable families, and maintaining health and education services in Palestinian areas.

But he pointed out that “the payment of civil servants who do not work does not meet one of [the EU’s] main objectives to provide public services to the Palestinian people”.

When Hamas took control of Gaza, President Abbas decided to keep paying the salaries of the estimated 61,000 civil servants and members of the security forces who stopped reporting for the jobs, so long as they stayed home and did not work for the rival administration.”

Since the EU auditors’ report was published over three years ago there has been no follow-up reporting on that story from the BBC and audiences were not informed whether or not the recommendations were implemented. 

Last week – apparently in light of a recent EU announcement that, for the first time, its 2017 contributions would not include funding for PA civil servants in the Gaza Strip and an earlier UK announcement to the same effect – the Palestinian Authority decided to make some changes.

“The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority announced on Wednesday it was slashing by nearly one third the salaries of tens of thousands of government employees in the Gaza Strip who have been sitting idly since the rival Hamas militant group took over the coastal territory a decade ago. […]

In the West Bank, government spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud said a reduction in foreign aid had forced the Palestinian Authority to cut Gaza salaries by 30 percent. “Without this step, the government cannot pay the salaries of its employees,” he said.

Affected workers expressed shock, anger and frustration as they gathered outside Gaza banks. In Gaza City, nearly 200 people joined a protest outside a Bank of Palestine branch. “The salary is our children’s right,” said one of the banners.”

On Saturday, a demonstration was held in Gaza City.

“Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested in Gaza City on Saturday against recent salary cuts announced by the Palestinian Authority.

The decision on Wednesday by the West Bank-based PA to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip has sparked anger among government employees affected. Demonstrators at Saturday’s protest, the largest since the 30 percent cut was announced, called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to sack his government. […]

On Friday, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah defended the salary cuts, saying they were necessary in order to “manage financial crises suffered by the Palestinian government due to reductions in international funds,” […]

Hamdallah also blamed Hamas for the economic situation in the Gaza Strip, while also calling on the terror group to return to control of Gaza to the PA, “the only representative of the Palestinian people.”

Hamas “keeps its income for himself, while the PA has spent more than 17 billion dollars in the Gaza Strip during the last 10 years,” he said. […]

Hamas condemned the PA salary reductions as “abusive and irresponsible,” while the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group said they were “illegal and unacceptable,” according to Ma’an.

On Friday, the Islamic Jihad terror group held a rally in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis protesting the pay cuts, which demonstrators said were mean [sic] to “drown” the residents of Gaza…”

Although tax payers in the many countries which donate aid to the Palestinian Authority – including of course Britain – would no doubt welcome some objective, in-depth, fact-based reporting on the subject of the perennial PA budget deficit and the related issues of prioritisation of payments to civil servants in the Gaza Strip who have not worked for nearly a decade, payments to families of terrorists and salaries for imprisoned terrorists, those topics remain firmly off the BBC agenda.  

Related Articles:

BBC report on EU audit of PA – starring Israel

PA’s salaries for terrorists in the news again – but not at the BBC

Updates on a Hamas story under-reported by the BBC

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