José María Olmo
01/07/2019 05:00 – Updated: 01/07/2019 08:31
The Generalitat of Catalonia has been using funds for development cooperation to strengthen the tentacles of the independence movement in its own territory and to increase the international projection of the movement in full defiance of the State. Thousands of public euros that should have been used to improve the living conditions of third world inhabitants ended up in the coffers of entities involved in the ‘procés’, according to the Court of Auditors in one of its last reports, focused on the audit of the external action services of the Generalitat. In the year of the referendum, the Executive of Carles Puigdemont raised this budget item by 222%.
The Court of Accounts has discovered a long list of irregularities in the guts of the Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD), the body of the Generalitat responsible for distributing its grants of official development aid (ODA). The OECD considers that only the money that is invested in the countries with needs is ODA, but the autonomic legislation includes in that concept the actions or programs supposedly intended to increase the “awareness, education, training and values” of the Catalans towards cooperation with those people.
The executives of Artur Mas and Puigdemont would have used that easy way to introduce, within the bag of development aid, subsidies to programs so little related to that objective as ‘Catalonia for the abolition of nuclear weapons’; ‘Tools for strengthening the Catalan associative fabric towards economic and energy sovereignty’; ‘Promotion of community rural tourism among the actors of the Catalan tourism system’; ‘Give me cinema, feminist cyber-activism for the rights of women as defenders of rights’, and ‘Sexual and reproductive rights: strengthen advocacy capacities in the 2030 global agenda and in the Catalan agenda’.
By chance, most of these programs were organized by associations and collectives linked to the ‘procés’. The first of them, ‘Catalonia for the abolition of nuclear weapons’, which received 12,000 euros, was promoted by FundiPau, one of the foundations of the secessionist galaxy that promotes civil disobedience against the State. This same week, for example, organizes in Barcelona a conference on these insubordination strategies under the umbrella of the new campaign of actions launched by Òmnium, with the slogan ‘Ho tornarem a fer’ (Lo volveremos a hacer ‘We will do it again’).
In this same conference also participate Observatori DESC and Novact, two of the organizations that have received the most funds also for alleged development aid and also actively involved in promoting the agenda of the independence movement. Novact was one of the entities that accused the State of violating “civil and political rights” of the Catalans with their actions in the 1-O, and has been part of a supposed international supervision group, actually formed by Catalan entities, for monitoring the development of the trial in the Supreme Court against the leaders of the ‘procés’. In 2017 alone, it received three development aid grants from the Generalitat totaling more than 300,000 euros. Fundipau received another 55,000 euros and Observatori DESC, 27,000 for a program entitled ‘Instituting economic, social and cultural rights effectively; balance and perspectives of the constitutionality of economic, social and cultural rights’.
The Court of Accounts denounces that there is no evidence that the financed programs fit in with the objectives that the current Master Plan for Development Cooperation presumably establishes and that, in any case, the destination of the funds is barely audited by the Generalitat. The regulation allows the ACCD to grant advances of 100% of the aid and its subsequent control of the money is very deficient. Likewise, the accounting oversight body denounces that Catalan regulations restrict access to these subsidies for groups that have their headquarters in the community and that, in addition, have governing bodies in its territory with a real capacity for decision, a discrimination designed by the Govern to ensure its ability to influence these associations.
The ACCD processed subsidies in 2014 for a total amount of 3.9 million euros. In 2015, the amount of aid went up to 5.4 million, and a year later it dropped slightly to 4.1. The greatest variation occurs in 2017, when the full challenge of the independence executive of Puigdemont to the State was taking place. The Government of Junts pel Sí agreed to raise that item to 13.3 million euros, 222% more than in the previous year.
Part of the year’s money from 1-O did not even end up in the coffers of entities related to cooperation. As an example, the ACCD granted in 2017, under a collaboration agreement, the amount of 20,000 euros to Diplocat, the public entity of the Generalitat in charge of channeling the external action of the Government and managing its vast network of embassies, the majority located in the most exclusive neighborhoods of the main capitals of the world. Once in Diplocat, the 20,000 euros were included in another grant of 165,000 euros granted by that diplomatic entity to the Federation of Internationally Recognized Catalan Organizations, better known by its acronym, Focir, and which has also played a key role in the diffusion abroad of the independence message.
The Generalitat itself admitted that this agreement, as well as the increase of the cooperation item by 222%, was aimed at promoting aid for the international projection of Catalonia in 2017. As its name indicates, the Focir includes any Catalan entity that has managed to put a foot in the international body that represents any sector, from the Federation of Radio amateurs of Catalonia to the Federation of Travelers’ Entities, through the Catalan Federation of Sports Dance and the Pitch & Putt Federation, a form of golf. Everything adds up to the ‘procés’. After the intervention of Diplocat with the 155, the Focir assumed its role. Not only receives money from the foreign affairs body of the Government. The Generalitat, the Diputación de Barcelona and the city council of Barcelona grant it annual grants and has also managed to access a line of grants from the European Social Fund of the European Union.
Nor is it by chance as well that the Focir is chaired by Mónica Sabata, an historical leader of the independence movement who was one of the main promoters of the Platform for the Right to Decide, an entity that emerged in 2005 under the protection of the Statute of Catalonia that helped to extend the concept of self-determination and can be considered a precursor of the Catalan National Assembly, founded in 2012. At least 20,000 euros originally intended for cooperation with developing countries ended in 2017 at the hands of Sabata.
The Court of Instruction number 1 of Barcelona keeps open an investigation into a presumed plot of embezzlement in subsidies to the third world devised by officers of Convergència to divert funds to the ‘procés’. The investigations were settled in May last year with the so-called Operation Estela, of the Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (UDEF) of the National Police, which focused on the aid granted by the Diputación de Barcelona, with its own budget line for cooperation. More than thirty public leaders and directors of associations are officially accused.