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POLITICAL CORRUPTION

Andalusian fraud commission chief blasts parties for ditching report

United Left’s García says parliamentary voting down of labor subsidies probe is a “shame”

Javier Martín-Arroyo

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IU Andalusian deputy Ignacio García.
IU Andalusian deputy Ignacio García.DANIEL PÉREZ (EFE)

The head of the commission investigating a case of massive fraud in the use of public money to help troubled Andalusian businesses said he feels “shame” at the regional parliament’s failure to approve their report due to political bickering.

“It is not right to let this slide as though nothing had happened,” said committee chairman Ignacio García, of the United Left (IU) coalition. “Time will tell whether this has an effect on our government pact with the [PSOE] Socialist Party.”

After five months of work gathering testimonies by politicians and businesspeople and analyzing complex documents, the committee's 196-point report was voted down on Wednesday due to disagreements between IU, PSOE and the Popular Party (PP) over who is ultimately responsible for channeling money away from a 647-million-euro regional government fund set up for struggling businesses.

Initially meant to help companies pay for early retirements instead of firing employees, money was diverted over the course of 10 years to insurance companies, law firms, unions and all sorts of intermediaries who charged hefty commissions. Businesses which were not legally eligible for the aid — including financially healthy ones and those already in bankruptcy — also benefited. Additionally, 72 individuals pretended to work for aid recipients in order to receive early retirement packages.

We started out in the right direction, but were frustrated by maneuvering and strategies that led us nowhere”

The opposition PP voted against the report in its entirety after describing it as “garbage” and “just for show,” while the ruling PSOE rejected over 30 points to leave a document that only blames one individual for the entire scandal: former director general of labor Francisco Javier Guerrero. The PP holds that the Socialist government and its leader, José Antonio Griñán, must have been aware of the fraud because they increased the budget for the fund.

Meanwhile, commission chairman García himself called the resulting document “an incoherent pastiche.”

In an interview on the Canal Sur TV station, García blamed the parties’ inflexibility for the lack of parliamentary consensus. “They did not budge an inch from their initial positions, despite the intense work carried out by the commission,” he said. “We started out in the right direction, but in the end we were frustrated by maneuvering and strategies that led us nowhere.”

In his opinion, it is “logical” that citizens should feel “betrayed and lied to” right now. “All this is part of the breeding ground that feeds social unrest,” warned García, who understands why there are people who believe that the country’s institutional system “as it stands today can hardly address the concerns of citizens.”

A judge is also investigating the case to determine where criminal responsibility lies for the fraud.

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