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NGOs To Gain Access To Swiss Funding As Deal With Hungarian Government Is Concluded

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2014.12.31.

Civil organisations that won bids for Swiss-Hungarian funding will soon have access to their money thanks to an agreement between the two countries’ respective governments.

A transitional agreement has been signed to ensure that the funding is not distributed by the Ökotárs Foundation but by the Széchenyi Programme Office, a cabinet background institution, Nándor Csepreghy, deputy state secretary for development policy communications, told MTI, confirming information in business daily Napi Gazdaság.

“While there is an investigation against Ökotárs the support will be paid via the Hungarian government … in this way the investigation will not put civil organisations to a disadvantage,” Mr. Csepreghy said. The paper said on 16 December that the investigation was expected to last a maximum of 45 days.

Earlier in the year, the Government Control Office (Kehi) started investigations into fund management at several NGOs and civil organisations, most of whom protested this move. In September the investigation into Ökotárs Foundation, an organisation coordinating the distribution of funds from the EEA/Norway Grants in Hungary, was extended to include support received from the Swiss-Hungarian Cooperation Programme in December. This was followed by the initiation of a further inquiry by the Prime Minister’s Office, lead by János Lázár, at foundations handling Swiss funds and although Switzerland did not see signs of malpractice on behalf of Ökotárs, payments were halted.

Veronika Móra, head of the Ökotárs Foundation, has confirmed the conclusion of the agreement, highlighting that Ökotárs is not being left out of the procedure. According to Ms. Móra, the essence of the solution, which is expressly transitional and valid for the period of the irregularity process, is that Ökotárs will continue to carry out the practical tasks concerning the operation of the programme, the following up of supported projects, auditing and approving reports, while the Széchenyi Programme Office will transfer payments to the NGOs upon the commission of Ökotárs. In conclusion, substantial tasks will continue to be performed by Ökotárs and its partners – for which they accept responsibility  – and “changes in fund allocation are merely of a technical nature”, Ms. Móra wrote in a statement.

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photo: Tuba