How to waste public funds

President Áder’s foundation given €4.7 million every year by Viktor Orban’s office

One of the most important topics for President János Áder is environmental protection. Thus nobody was surprised to hear that he created a foundation with an environmental focus. It was more surprising, however, that the foundation will receive 1.5 billion Hungarian forints (approximately 4.7 million euros at today’s exchange rate) from the Prime Minister’s office every year, starting in 2019.

We wanted to know how Áder’s foundation was spending the money that it received from Orban’s office and filed a freedom of information request to learn the details. The original transfer of taxpayer funds was reported by TV channel RTL Klub; now Atlatszo is revealing what the money is supposed to be spent on.

According to the documents we received the money will be spent on educational materials, conferences, grants, training for journalists, and international campaigns among other things.

President Áder announced in 2017 that he established a foundation the year before. The foundation, aiming at environmental protection, was originally set up with 85 million forints (approximately 267,000 euros at today’s exchange rate). The money came from a Hungarian citizen living abroad who passed away and left his money to the President of Hungary in order to help Hungarians.

Hungary is a parliamentary democracy with most of the power in the hands of the government that is elected by the Parliament. The president, most of the time, has only a ceremonial role. Áder has been the president of Hungary since 2012.

Áder’s foundation is called the Blue Planet Environmental Foundation (Kék Bolygó Környezetvédelmi Alapítvány) and its aim is to ‘raise awareness of issues regarding the environment and sustainability, and involving local communities in solving them.’

This February, RTL Klub reported that the Foundation got nearly 500 million Hungarian forints (1.5 million euros) from the government, and according to a recent government measure, it will be given 1.5 billion forints (approximately 4.7 million euros) every year, starting in 2019.

Atlatszo signed a freedom of information request and obtained the document signed by the Foundation and the Prime Minister’s office and another that sets out the goals of the Foundation and lists what it intends to spend the taxpayer money on.

According to the document the Foundation will carry out the following until the end of 2020:

  • build an operative staff for the Foundation and improving its online activity
  • organize training programs for journalists (consultations in Hungary and study tours abroad)
  • create teaching materials for schools
  • organize thematic educational days in schools
  • run an international media campaign promoting Hungary
  • create a database of experts
  • conduct opinion polls internationally
  • organize conferences with Magyarországi Üzleti Tanács a Fenntartható Fejlődésért (BCSDH) and Hungarian Business Leaders Fórummal (HBLF)
  • colleges scholarships for students of water protection
  • publish 3-4 books, most of the written by U.S. authors
  • take part in the organization of the Budapest Water Summit (2019)
  • monitor successful environmental solutions globally
  • organize events spanning the Carpathian Basin
  • start a competition for innovative startups
  • fund other organizations

The document also states that although Blue Planet Environment Foundation is headquartered at Margit Road, it is renting an office in the 1st district of Budapest. RTL Klub has already uncovered that five employees work in the office and that the president’s foundation is paying 2.7 million forints (approximately 8500 euros) every month for the office to one of the foundations owned by the central bank of Hungary.

Written by Katalin Erdélyi

English version by Lili Rutai. You can read the original, Hungarian-language story here.