Kinnock to set up whistle-blowers’ help-desk for staff to report fraud

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.43, 22.11.01, p3
Publication Date 22/11/2001
Content Type

Date: 22/11/01

By David Cronin

THE European Commission plans to offer special assistance to officials wishing to report suspected fraud or mismanagement within the institution, according to internal reform chief Neil Kinnock.

The Welsh commissioner has said he believes that "impartial and confidential advice should be available to all members of staff about the best means of disclosing possible irregularities safely and legitimately". In a response to a Parliamentary question tabled by Dutch MEP Erik Meijer, he added that "use of such an advisory function would be very accessible but not in any sense compulsory".

Kinnock's spokesman, Eric Mamer, said the decision to establish a confidential advice service was made following consultations with unions. "I'm not aware of any timetable for doing so but it should be done relatively quickly," he explained. "It is a priority for us."

Although the precise nature of the help-desk is not yet finalised, it will be in addition to that already provided by the mediator in the Commission's directorate-general for administration (DG Admin), whose main task is to deal with grievances over working conditions. Kinnock has also given assurances that "reasonable time and facilities" will be given to officials who wish to prepare a dossier outlining claims of wrongdoing.

In one recent case, an official was granted "six weeks" release from normal duties" to prepare evidence on a particular case.

However, the commission vice-president stressed that responsibility for investigating allegations falls to the Commission's anti-fraud office OLAF "and not to the official reporting alleged wrongdoing".

Mamer said guarantees of confidentiality could be made to fonctionnaires bringing concerns to the attention of OLAF or their superiors on a case-by-case basis. Yet it would not be accorded to those who "report mischievous allegations" or circulate details of their claims outside the institution. "We need to be sure that a "whistle-blower" has been acting with good intentions," he added.

The activities of "whistle-blowers" has been an acutely sensitive topic for the EU's executive in recent years. Former internal auditor Paul van Buitenen lost his job (he was later employed in another department) after supplying MEPs with a litany of cronyism and fraud cases, involving key figures such as former French Commissioner Edith Cresson. Van Buitenen's revelations triggered the fall of the Santer Commission in 1999.

Meanwhile, European Voice has learned that one of the main unions in the Commission has not received even an acknowledgment in response to concerns raised in a letter sent early last month about an appointment in the directorate-general for the information society (DG Infso). The Renouveau et Démocratie (R & D) union alleges that a head-of-unit post had been promised to an unnamed official - even though the vacancy had been advertised.

The official stands to gain a large salary increase. The union's letter was addressed to Robert Verrue, the head of that DG, and copied to Kinnock and IT chief Erkki Liikanen.

"Normally we never receive a reply to these kinds of letters," said leading R & D member Franco Ianniello. "It says a lot about transparency in the Commission."

The European Commission plans to offer special assistance to officials wishing to report suspected fraud or mismanagement within the institution, according to the Commissioner responsible for internal reform, Neil Kinnock.

Subject Categories
Record URL