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Global Investigative Journalism Conference Kiev - 2011

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Global Investigative Journalism Conference Kiev - 2011. Agenda. Europe’s Hidden Billions - who benefits from European Structural Funds? What are Structural Funds? What we found Our approach Web and PDF scraping Data analysis techniques (exclusion lists, watch lists).

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Presentation Transcript
agenda
Agenda
  • Europe’s Hidden Billions - who benefits from European Structural Funds?
    • What are Structural Funds?
    • What we found
    • Our approach
    • Web and PDF scraping
    • Data analysis techniques (exclusion lists, watch lists)
slide3

Europe’s Hidden Billions

  • €347bn over 7 years
  • 12 member multi-lingual team
  • 1 database
  • Nearly 600 data sheets
  • 21 languages
  • More than 640,000 records
  • More than 100 agencies
slide4

Europe’s Hidden Billions – What are the Structural Funds ?

  • Europe’s second largest subsidy scheme – worth €347bn over 7 years (current funding round 2007-2013)
  • More than 1/3 of EU budget
  • Aims to redistribute Europe’s wealth and lift the economies of
  • its poorest regions
slide5

Europe’s Hidden Billions – Some of our findings

  • Opaque – it’s extremely difficult for taxpayers to trace how their money is
  • spent
  • Bureaucracy means low uptake (at end of 2010 only 10% paid)
  • Weak oversight system rarely punishes fraud
  • Millions of euros continue to be siphoned off by organised crime
  • Some of the biggest corporate beneficiaries are multinational corporations such as Nokia, Siemens, Fiat
  • Companies relocating have obtained funding in contravention to rules
  • e.g. Twinings
slide6

Europe’s Hidden Billions – Fraud and mismanagement

  • European Court of Auditors 11% ‘error rate’
  • Errors and irregularities - €1.22bn / 2009: €109m suspected fraud
  • OLAF – 20 fraud investigators; inefficient take long
  • Ndrangheta (Italian mafia) fraud through law 488
  • Idle desalination plant Illegal luxury hotels in Spanish
  • UNESCO nature reserve
slide7

Europe’s Hidden Billions – Reaction

  • Commission held a press conference and mounted up a full-blown public relations campaign in an attempt to counter our stories
  • ‘FT is in cahoots with the UK government’
  • European Parliament: the series was extensively referenced in committee hearings. MEPs have called for increased powers of independent parliamentary scrutiny over grant applications
slide8

Europe’s Hidden Billions – Is this transparency?

  • No central database
  • Neither Commission nor anti-fraud body has full overview
  • Erratic level of disclosure
europe s hidden billions how we did it
Europe’s Hidden Billions – How we did it

Beneficiary data

600 + pdfs

Master Google spreadsheet

Database - server

Dashboard (online)

search

Full export for macro analysis

Individual country files to correspondents

Numbers used in coverage checked with companies and authorities (shoe-leather)

europe s hidden billions how we did it1
Europe’s Hidden Billions – How we did it
  • Web scraping (unPDF; AbbyFine reader with OCR)
slide13

Europe’s Hidden Billions – How we did it

Debarment lists –

not public for EU

WHY?

FT/BIJ database

Excluded Parties List (US)

EU Restructuring database

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