Danida Accused of Excessive Luxury Spending

Danish daily Jyllands-Posten today questioned the way Danida spends the tax-payer’s money.
“More than a hundred persons with relations to Danida, including spouses, girl/boyfriends and children spend the 10 – 13 May on a luxury hotel in Vietnam during a seminar about foreign politics.”
“All in all the Danida-group left a bill totalling 150,000 – 180,000 DKK – a bill paid with the Danish tax-payers money,” Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten wrote. Each member of the group stayed tree or four nights at the hotel – the newly opened Golden Sand Resort near the city Hoi An.
Room rates at the hotel start at 80 USD and goes to 180 USD per day.
The greater part of the Danida group was Danish councillors with a permanent address in Vietnam.
“During 2005 Danida held similar seminars – with families – in six different developing countries – the total bill around half a million Danish Kroner,” the article further explains.
Since Jyllands-Posten ran the article in their paper-version Tuesday morning several other Danish newspapers have quoted it on their web-pages.

Perfectly normal
Danida resides under the Danish Foreign Ministry. And the Ministry informed Jyllands-Posten that is it perfectly normal to do it this way.
But a member of the Danish parliament questions this procedure.
Foreign spokesman, Jeppe Kofod, from the opposition party the Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne), thinks that the ministry should be able to come up with a good explanation for the Vietnam-seminar.
”Of course they need the right facilities, but in all fairness this seems excessive. The Foreign Ministry has to make sure this is the right way to do it when it is the tax-payer’s money that is used. At least is would be reasonable that children and spouses made a contribution”, he said to Jyllands-Posten.
Expert in public administration, Oluf Jørgensen from the Danish School of Journalism, is – considering the normally low price range of Vietnam hotels – wondering why such an expensive hotel was chosen.

It is an outrage
Foreign spokesman from Danish Peoples Party (DF), Søren Espersen, think it is difficult to access the price level in Vietnam. But he is not in doubt as to who should pay the bill.
“But it sounds totally weird that the family has to come along to hear what is going on. They can meet during different social happenings and pay by them selves. It is not the government’s job. It is an outrage and I want an explanation,” he said.
Foreign spokeswoman from the government party Venstre on the contrary thinks that the councillors live with “poor conditions” during their daily work.
“Then it is ok to once a year go all out and invite their spouses as well,” she said.
The seminar was arranged by the Danish Embassy in Hanoi and the councillors association. Danish ambassador, Peter Lysholt Hansen, informs Jyllands-Posten that the group had gotten a discount and the price was around 700 DKK per night.
The ambassador states the reason for the participation of the families with social responsibility.
“The councillor’s work was central during the seminar. But you should not underestimate the social aspect, as we are in a country where some of the councillor’s families live isolated and are unable to speak the language,” the ambassador said.

Ok’ed the budget
The Danish foreign ministry had approved the budget before the seminar. Current Danida-head, Ib Petersen, explains that is important that spouses are also informed about foreign politics – such as the HIV/AIDS situation.

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