Door: Robert Giebels, Natalie Righton − 10/06/14, 08:29
© reuters. U.S. paratroopers stand near am armored vehicle after the opening ceremony of NATO military exercise 'Saber Strike' in Adazi, Latvia.
English version Billions of dollars are unaccounted for in the books of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Parliamentarians of 28 NATO countries have no idea how much taxpayers money flows through the military alliance and whether it is spent legitimately, says the Dutch National Court of Auditors. This is due to an administrative backlog of decades and abundantly marking expenditures as 'undisclosed'. Following is an English translation of a story in de Volkskrant.
'NATO might be wasting a lot of money, or maybe they are short of cash. Frankly, we have no idea', says Saskia Stuiveling, president of the Dutch National Court of Auditors. The findings of the official controlling body of the Dutch government are a result of extensive research on NATO expenditures over the past forty years. It will launch a website in English on Tuesday June 10, 2014, to reveal the messy accounts of NATO.
The purpose of the Auditors is to get this issue on the agenda of the next NATO Parliamentary Assembly in November 2014 in The Hague, The Netherlands. The NATO-ambassadors from all member states are aware of the transparency problem, but until now this has not resulted into a solution of the transparency problem, claims the Dutch Auditor.In a reaction, NATO states that 'some reports cannot be made public due to the classified nature of the issue audited.' However, 'NATO allies maintain full control of the level of expenses and how the money is being spent.'
With this comment the NATO spokesperson is referring to the information position of NATO (budget) representatives to the North Atlantic Council of 28 NATO states. The council meets twice a week. These ambassadors 'are fully aware what money is spend on what'. The information shared in the council is by far not always available for external auditors or parliamentarians who are supposed to supervise the legitimate expenditure of tax payers money.
'Good initiative'The Dutch ministry of Defense calls the initiative of the Dutch National Court of Auditors to get more transparency on NATO's expenditures a 'good initiative which is viewed upon positively by the Dutch cabinet' and hopes that 'parliaments and the general public will get more insight into how funds are spent within NATO to ensure our safety.'
At the same time the Defense spokesperson points out that 'all cash flows and expenditures are currently controlled by the IBAN', an independent team of auditors for NATO. However, the military alliance recognizes that only the 'civilian budget is audited continuously'.
Expenditure on military missions (such as those in Afghanistan) or on military special projects are not always included. These expenses probably form the lion's share. As of July NATO will publish some unclassified reports on (civilian) expenses on its website 'on a case-by-case basis'.
An Afghan policeman stands near a destroyed NATO supply truck in Behsud district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Obama: spend more on defenseThe misty bookkeeping of total NATO expenditures are politically highly sensitive. U.S. President Obama has urged European countries frequently in the past few months to spend more on defense.Together, all 28 NATO-countries yearly spend over 1 trillion dollars on defense - three quarters is spent by the United States, one quarter by the European NATO-members. How much of that amount runs through the books of NATO is largely unknown.
NATO is financed roughly by three funds. The first fund is filled with 3.3 billion dollar contributed by all 28 member states. This 'common fund' is used to pay for NATO-headquarters in Brussels, the staff working there and other common expenditures. How the money in this common fund is spent exactly, is 'undisclosed'.
The other two funds keeping NATO alive, are two big question marks. There is one fund for international missions (such as the NATO's mission in Afghanistan) and one fund for special projects (such as the development of the NH-90 helicopter and the eurofighter). Which NATO member states contribute to these two funds and if yes, how much, is classified information.
After six years of requesting more information, the Dutch National Court of Auditors does not even have a beginning of an idea of the total amount that each NATO country is paying to these last two funds.
378 investments still open in the booksThe Dutch auditor did discover that 378 NATO investment projects - dating back from 1970 to 1994 - are still open in the books. The value of these projects is estimated at 4.5 billion dollars. The Netherlands spent 5 million euro on 4 of these projects (The US 406 million euro on 19 projects / The UK 138 million euro on 37 projects). These projects have never been financially evaluated or accounted for.
The Netherlands spent 7.8 billion dollars on defense in 2013. A part of this tax payers money is spent on the defense organization in The Netherlands (such as maintenance of military posts inside the country) or on non-NATO military missions, such as the UN-mission in Mali. The third part of Dutch defense money is spent on NATO-missions. The ones in the Afghan provinces of Kunduz and Uruzgan cost The Netherlands 2.4 billion euro. Stuiveling: 'To me, the lack of transparency does not contribute to the public support for NATO.'