The Centre Against Racism hit the headlines earlier this year with its controversial criticism of a Swedish ice cream called Nogger Black. But despite receiving 14 million kronor in funding – half the government’s annual budget for combatting racism – the organisation appears to have done little else.
Instead, a Svenska Dagbladet investigation has revealed, the Centre has been riven by internal conflicts and a lack of financial control.
According to the newspaper, the Centre Against Racism spent 330,000 kronor in 2004 renovating its 180 square metres of office space in central Stockholm. The organisation only has three employees.
“It became so expensive because the head of the organisation, Amina Ek, bought new, very luxurious furniture,” said several disgruntled former employees.
“She threw out all the old stuff we had bought cheaply.”
This year’s budget allowed for a further 140,000 kronor to be spent on renovations.
But a far greater amount was spent on hotels and restaurants. In 2004 the three employees plus the eleven board members managed to rack up bills of almost 600,000 kronor in travel, luxury hotel charges, meals and booze.
So what has the Swedish taxpayer, eager to fight the scourge of racism in society, got for his or her money?
“We made some keyrings and erasers, but nothing more substantial,” said a former board member.
“There were no concrete ideas about what we should do.”
Indeed, in two years the Centre has not carried out one investigation or produced one report into racism, ethnic harassment or homophobia, according to SvD. And the figures on hate crimes which the Centre publishes on its web site are five years old.
Nevertheless, the salary costs in 2004 amounted to 1.7 million kronor, while the expenses of board members, who are meant to be unpaid, came to 275,000 kronor.
Benito Miguel was one of the people who helped to form the Centre Against Racism two years ago.
“The Centre has done absolutely nothing. The campaign against Nogger Black was just to cover up the lack of work,” he said.
During 2003 and 2004 the organisation received 8.3 million kronor from the government. Over 40% is still sitting in a bank account.
That didn’t stop the Department for Integration, which provides the funding, from dishing out another 800,000 kronor to cover the costs of the Centre’s taking over the running of a database on racism.
As SvD pointed out, “normal organisations receive reduced funding when they don’t use their money”. But that has not happened with the Centre Against Racism – which has apparently not been required to provide any evidence of how it has spent the cash.
“The failings are in how they use the money,” said Gunno Gunnmo, an investigator at the Justice Department.
“There is no strategy, no goal and no guidelines. They have no order.”
But the chairman of the Centre, Stig Wallin, rejected the criticism, telling SvD that the unspent money was “a buffer” in case the funding stopped in the future.
“We are employers and have a responsibility to cover notice periods and rental contracts. We need the money as security.”