The European Union's anti-fraud office is investigating allegations that some EU funding to the Palestinian Authority has been misused. However, the European Union's executive commission denies any money has been improperly used, and says it has probed such charges before.
The European Union is the largest aid donor to the Palestinian Authority, supplying about $11 million a month to help pay the salaries of Palestinian public sector workers.
A statement by the EU's fraud office, known as OLAF, says it decided to launch an investigation after receiving information in recent months from a number of sources.
Some members of the European parliament allege that money from the European Union has been taken by corrupt officials of the Palestinian Authority, or used to fund attacks on Israeli civilians. This week, members of the parliament said they had gathered enough signatures in the assembly to trigger the establishment of a committee of inquiry into alleged misuse of Palestinian aid.
However, when asked what triggered the probe, an OLAF spokesman denied it was the moves in the parliament.
The European Commission, which disburses the aid, welcomes the probe. But it says controls are already in place to prevent misuse of funds, and the commission itself has investigated such allegations before. Diego Ojeda is a spokesman for the commission. "We've checked each and every single allegation that we've heard of, that we've been made aware of," he said. "But the allegations persist, and we welcome the opening of this independent investigation, because it might help to convince those who remain unconvinced. We were pretty confident in the first place that our systems work. After several thorough checks and controls and discussions with all the parties such as the IMF and the World Bank, we are quite confident that the system is working, and working well."
The Palestinian Authority has about 125,000 employees. Observers say the OLAF fraud probe will likely take months to complete.