The Financial Times has today published the first details resulting from a collaboration with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to examine the distribution of money from the European Union structural fund.
The investigation – which the FT claims reveals ‘a trail of undetected waste, missed opportunity and even fraud’– is the result of eight months building a database tracing all money distributed under the structural fund’s programme to date.
The research collates information on 646,929 beneficiaries across all 27 EU member states, to provide a clear view of how â‚¬347bn (£291bn) of European tax payers’ money is spent through the EU’s second largest budget.
The FT claims today its research shows how big business is accessing grants despite the fact that the fund is intended to provide a help to Europe’s weakest members and smallest businesses.
It also claims to show how the EU funds has poured cash into the hands of the Italian mafia.
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, said: “Our joint investigation raises serious questions about the way the EU allocates development funds in an age of austerity.
“The European Commission and the EU’s 27 member states need to ensure more transparency and greater accountability over how billions of euros of European taxpayers’ money are spent.”
The FT intends to run its findings as a series over the next five days.
The investigation into the structural fund is the latest in a series of high-profile projects carried out by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism since it launched in April this year with initial funding of £2m from the Potter Foundation.
The Bureau scored its biggest scoop to date in September when – in collaboration with BBC Panorama programme – it found out that in excess of 38,000 UK public servants earn more than £100,000 a year.
It has also conducted investigations in partnership with the British Medical Journal, Channel 4 and Al Jazeera English.
Speaking about the latest investigation Iain Overton, editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, said: “In an age of austerity we need to ensure that every penny counts.
“The EU hands out nearly â‚¬350bn, and yet the distribution of these funds has remained opaque. Even MEPs haven’t had access to the detail. Our database shines new light on how the money is spent.”