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An insulting fraud

The Madrid training scheme scam exploited the lack of proper labor policy

Unemployment and corruption, the two problems that most worry Spaniards, are perversely linked in the Madrid bogus training schemes scandal. Data from the police’s Economic and Fiscal Crimes Unit (UDEF) indicate that 10 businessmen had been diverting public money earmarked for training courses – courses that were not held because even their students were fictitious. As in the Andalusia ERE scandal, the investigation is pointing to the involvement of the UGT labor union in the alleged looting of public funds. The Madrid employers association and other business associations have also been implicated in a scam that has taken at least €15 million out of the coffers of the Madrid regional government (€4.5 million) and the Labor Ministry (€11 million). Among those arrested, aside from the alleged head of the scheme, José Luis Aneri, is Alfonso Tezanos, the right-hand man of the president of the Madrid employers association, Arturo Fernández.

From what is known so far about the police investigations, if this new case of corruption has been possible, it is in large part a result of the scant control over the public money being managed. In fact the Madrid regional government only realized that a possible fraud may have been committed after Aneri stopped sending the pertinent expense receipts at the end of 2012. The first complaint, which came out of the Public Service of State Employment (SEPE), came as the result of the lack of receipts and not, as you might expect, out of correctly following the use of the public money handed out.

A country with an unacceptable unemployment rate is permitting the uncontrolled abuse of the money it devotes to employment policies

The scandal offers up to public opinion a deplorable spectacle in which the associations that organized the courses also did not go without backhanders. Once the UDEF began to act in a significant way, the reactions were irresponsible. The business associations refused to hand back the money because they felt they had been victims of the corrupt figures, while the Madrid regional government, which never went to the courts, froze spending on training courses, held the national Labor Ministry’s Tripartite Foundation for job training responsible for the control of the money and limited the damage to the 2011 accounts, even though it had begun its collaboration with Aneri in 2009.

The facts under investigation are serious. A country with an unacceptable unemployment rate that devotes so little money – in relative terms – to employment policies is permitting the uncontrolled use and abuse of that money and, of course, preventing those who need to from being trained. Subsequent action, in both this and other cases, is looking to discover the origin of the problem: the standing of the business, union and political leaders who did not even accept the most minimal responsibility once the problem was revealed. Across Europe, the labor policies in which the training courses are recorded usually count on the close collaboration of employees associations and labor unions, as well as adequate controls. It is urgent that the necessary measures are taken to get the same to happen here.

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