What was the topic of your latest corruption briefing?

About the money provided by the European Union to support educational reform in Hungary. It seems like a large part of this money was simply stolen. We can say that the politicians have stolen the educational reform. In the last days and weeks something began to happen among the teachers; they don’t want to stay silent any more. Normally it would be in the country’s best interest if happy, motivated and self-confident teachers were teaching happy, motivated and self-confident students. However, it’s quite clear that instead of this, weary teachers are standing in front of exhausted classes.

What do you mean specifically?

I have a son going to second grade. He has six lessons on three days of the week, on the other ones he has five. The small children only get to eat lunch at 1.30pm each day, and when he comes home I see in his face how exhausted he is. The learning material is also too complex for children. The new books are simply a catastrophe. In addition, the teachers have to take care of a mountain of administration. The worst thing of all is this was all done out of European Union funds! This is what the multiple billions of forints were spent on. Just to mention a few numbers: HUF 3.5 billion on the “comprehensive quality improvement in the educational sector”, HUF 11.5 billion on the training of teachers and HUF 6 billion for a project called “Education in the 21st century”. The impression that we can gain from the publicly available information is that the most important aim was not the improvement of the educational sector, but only finding a way of allocating and tapping the money. What is even worse is that what was invented in these instances is actually being implemented at the moment, because if it wasn’t, the money would need to be paid back to the EU. For example, the plans for the self-evaluation within the faculty (called PÖCS), were developed using this money. If these plans were only hidden in a drawer, there would be no money given for them.

In your opinion, what was the most striking example for wasting money in education?

Clearly the daily fee for the professional experts. The cheapest experts were working for HUF 50,000 a day, but on many occasions the fee was HUF 80,000 or even higher – paid for even several hundred days. Or the fees for trainers or professionals on quality assurance. There is no kind of documentation about what they have actually done. There was a company, for example, that won more than HUF 500 million in a tender, and the company did not even exist the previous year. The company was founded at the end of 2014 and in 2015 it won a project for several hundred million forints; all this at the very end of the timeframe when EU funds were still available. However, the cost of creating exercises is even more obvious. For example HUF 21 million was spent on creating 1700 exercises to be used in high school final exams.

But in Hungary there is a system of central final exams, isn’t there? Doesn’t the Ministry of Human Resources have their own staff for creating exercises?

Of course they do! Up until now this was a task for the ministry. However, now they gave the task to a company that normally gives Excel trainings for beginners. Finally this company even got an extra project for HUF 13 million to train the exercises it created. In case someone does not believe me, all this is publicly available information.

How many of these press conferences are you planning to organise?

There are more than enough topics to talk about. The first press conference was about a kindergarten that cost twice as much to build as it actually should have done. I also presented three important corruption cases to the public last year. Let’s take this kindergarten scandal, which I was able to support with auditory materials. The mayor explained to me how the tenders work in Szekszárd (where Hadházy is from). A company from Budapest comes to us and brings along a project. The company takes care of the planning, the tendering process and promises some bribes, ensuring that it will be the winner. If the town rejects this, the construction company moves on to the next mayor.

This is the way tenders are usually organised in Hungary?

The rip-off of EU funds concentrates on three areas. For one, they are creating tenders in the ministry where they have already decided at the outset who the winner is supposed to be. For two, there are the companies that know they are supposed to win. In the case of such make-believe tenders there is no real competition, so everything costs twice as much in the end. For three, there are the municipal councils, which take part in these tenders. But there are even more ways to pull money out of the state’s pocket.

For example?

There are tenders about how flexible working times can be realised by companies. These are tenders in the value of HUF 20 million each. A consulting company visits the company and checks how they would be able to realise flexible working time. Many companies have used this opportunity, ranging from undertakers to hospitals to bakeries. There are countless variants. However, the first case that I investigated for corruption was the classroom case.

What was that about?

There were 40 classrooms renovated and curricula created to the value of HUF 300 million per room. It surfaced that the actual renovation of the classrooms only took HUF 30 million. The rest of the money was “used” to manufacture exercise booklets. I myself work with physics and chemistry and I know that there are simply not that many experiments. There are only a couple dozen. However, in this case there was an invoice sent to each municipality, matching word for word the same invoice that was already presented in another town. And that for HUF 20 million – per town. After that they ordered an expertise also for HUF 20 million each, as to whether the study material is professionally right or not. And that’s still not everything. The exercise booklets were ordered in pdf format and another HUF 20 million was invoiced to each town. This was carried out over a network of companies with owners who know each other. It was precisely this network that allowed them to apply for tenders in communities several hundred kilometres from each other – and win them. This was a HUF 14 billion project with only HUF 2 billion or a maximum HUF 3 billion invested in a useful way.

Where do you get the ideas for your exposures of corruption?

Many of them come from citizens, however sometimes there is not a lot that I can actually use. Everything began when I was working in Szekszárd City Council as a Fidesz representative back in 2006. I quickly learned that my new representative colleagues and I were only supposed to be used as voting puppets. All the really

important decisions were made by the mayor and his deputy. However, even so I had the possibility to gain insight into things that were simply shocking for me. At the beginning we could hardly check such projects. The information was only theoretically available to the public back then because the municipalities were more or less hiding it on their homepages, and Google was not as useful as it is today. Today almost all information is available online, and that’s a great help. For example, when the Farkas case started (Flórián Farkas, member of Fidesz and government commissioner for Roma accused of extensive corruption), I just put in the keyword “Roma” in the bulletin for public tenders.

Do you work with investigation portals such as Átlátszó or Direkt 36?

No, basically I don’t. Sometimes I do check their homepages. In the beginning I thought that what they had published was interesting but for some time I only found it disgusting. For the same reason I will only continue my corruption information series as long as it’s not repulsing for me. Unfortunately my impression so far is that the supply of corruption material is inexhaustible. Átlátszó and Direkt 36 alone publish such corruption cases almost daily, for which former governments had to say their goodbyes.

Why is nothing happening there? Where is the limit in Hungary?

I am often asked this question and I am not particularly happy about it. I don’t know where the limit in Hungary is, but I know there is one. Every barrels overflows at some point, and there are more than enough cases that could be the last drop in it. However, we don’t know when exactly it’s going to happen. I believe that it would be in Fidesz’s interest if it would happen as soon as possible, because the later the barrel will overflow the angrier the citizens will be. Honestly, who would have believed two months ago that the teachers in Miskolc are going to go out on the streets? You can’t muzzle people, especially when the government is not only stealing but humiliating its citizens as well, since this public stealing is nothing less than humiliating. As I already said, I don’t know how large the barrel is but the water is flowing in abundance.

Do you think there is a chance for politics to change?

If I would not believe in it, I would not be working for it. Changes often happen very quickly. For one, we do not know where the limit is. For two, the opposition won’t get to the point to finally sit down together and think about it. “Together” is already an existing term in Hungarian politics, describing an alliance of the left parties, it’s only the common thinking that has not happened as of yet.

Máté Szabó, the former commissioner for fundamental rights, said the reason corruption is so widespread in Hungary is that citizens take the example from the top, namely from politicians.

Is it possible that people are simply dealing with it?

People are often disappointed in politics and in political alternatives as well. In addition to this, the government arranged that the refugee crisis is permanently serving as a reason to keep up a long-term state of anxiety. I don’t know whether people will swallow this bait and simply turn their heads from the cases of corruption. I also don’t know whether Fidesz will be able to survive another such legislation period.

Do you collaborate with other parties in discovering corruption cases?

Yes, for instance we are working with András Horváth, the whistle-blower in the case of the NAV (National Tax and Customs Administration) scandal and Péter Juhász from the Together party. Sometimes it looks as if there is a competition between opposing politicians who finally want to put an end to corruption. However, that’s wrong. It won’t be András Horváth, Péter Juhász or me who fights corruption, only society itself is able to do that. Only if the citizens want corruption to stop, that’s the time when it will happen. We should not be waiting for Europe or OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) to present solutions for the corruption in Hungary. We can’t even expect prosecution to handle it due to the volume of corruption cases. Of course it could be helpful when they would deal with some of the cases, but fundamentally the population has to actively participate in this. The population has to elect a political elite that will finally pass laws to impede corruption. Many parties state that they want to make corrupt politicians accountable. Of course, this is the right thing to do, but what is even more important is that there will finally be laws made that create fewer opportunities to steal public money.

What will be the role of prosecution in the whole process?

Prosecution always has a key role in letting things escalate to a level where they are at the moment. I think that if we only look at the result of the decision in the case of the Trafik-Mutyi (the redistribution of the tobacco market largely in favour of government friends) already speaks volumes. Péter Polt, Chief Public Prosecutor, stated to us in a letter that there are no signs of an unlawful relationship between politics and the beneficiaries of the concession rights for tobacco shops. This shows clearly that the public prosecutor’s office, in which Fidesz politicians have a share at the moment, is not working properly.

Who can take action then?

My last hope is the court. I still see a relatively large volume of independence there. However, the court can only make decisions in cases where the prosecution has already been active. If the prosecution is bringing the “wrong” people to court, the jury can’t condemn them. This is how they sabotage the work of the court. I believe that Hungary is no longer a state of law today.

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