Translated by Silvia Mingarelli, written by Stefanie Müller and edited by Grace Guliano
In the higher moment of unemployment in Spain, public education funding goes directly into the savings of companies, associations, chambers of commerce, parties and trade unions without even giving a second thought. But with the discovery of the recent school scam in Andalusia, more is being realized about corruption in Spain.
“As soon as you set foot in Andalusia, you leave part of yourself behind- you become your best you” – that’s what the southern Spanish region says to promote its tourism abroad. This slogan has now got a bitter taste. Many of their residents believe rather that one becomes worse when they enter Andalusia. For years, the cases of corruption have not stopped in the region.
“Sometimes, one has the impression that a foreigner can be trusted more than his own people,” says José López, an Andalusian olive farmer and chairman of the cultural Association Amici says of the picturesque town of Alcala La Real. He does not believe that only the Andalusian image has been damaged, and hopes that Spain will finally hold a mirror up to countries such as Germany. “The aid must come from the outside; the ones from inside just spoil everything”.
After the scandals involving the Andalusian regional government for usurpation of public money, in which €1.4 billion had reportedly been paid to nonexistent companies or workers, and actually involved a lay-off fund, and not just Andalusia is implicated as being a part of misappropriation cases; also the autonomous regional government of Madrid, the Chambers of Commerce and the Department of Labour are allegedly involved in them. However, the main culprit sits in the fraud case in Cordoba, Andalusia. It is the Sinergia Empresarial (business synergy), which has offered all kinds of internal life-long education courses, and has conceded subsidies coming from the state or the regional government funds, but that little had been done with them. Everything was fake, including student lists and course programs.
Since 2005, around €21 billion in aid for the training and further education sector have been assigned by various public institutions in Spain, and is expected to reduce the regional social exclusion, providing subsidies and tax breaks, etc. A special corruption investigation had been put in place in order to uncover the possible misappropriation of around two billions euros, which is solely related to companies and institutions in Andalusia. The majority of this money comes from the EU.
The trade unions are involved in the scandal, which took place in 2002 in a similar manner, though it was a different place, who have also lost general consent and credibility in recent years.
“It is incredible that they propagate themselves to fight against unemployment, and they themselves are embroiled in many scandals that have to do with false dismissals, front companies and misappropriated education funds,” said the Spanish writer and political activists Leon Arsenal. They have also charged commissions for public layoffs.
One of the main reasons that is contributing to these scandals in the trade unions sector is that public finances are not properly controlled by the Spanish Court of Auditors and many institutions, funded by taxpayers’ money, are not disclosing their finances, including the unions. That is proved as well by the ruling party that hasn’t given account yet of the unexplained scandal surrounding the B accounts. Millions of euros in the double digit sectors have flowed into Swiss money safes. So far, only the accountant had been held accountable.
Politicians have always had a bad reputation, but now many Spaniards believe that trade union associations, like UGT and CCOO, have cheated, too. That is one reason why only around 15 percent of Spanish workers are unionized today. Only in France, Estonia and Lithuania is the social adhering lower. Their financing is therefore now mainly constituted by taxpayers’ money. From the 2014 budget, €11.6 billions have flown into the pockets of the Spanish workers’ representatives. “This is an outrage. They have financed themselves through membership fees,” says Arsenal.
In Madrid, the trade union, UGT, is under suspicion of having provided false information about courses to companies in the region. The autonomous region of Madrid is currently investigating 150 foundations, companies and trade unions in connection with the misappropriation of training aids on the track of the Cordoba-based company, Sinergia Empresarial. Such plundering reaches about €17 million.
“The corruption that prevails here in the trade unions is dangerous for the economy as a whole, because we have no more workers’ representatives we are able to trust,” says business consultant Ignacio de Benito.