Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Anti-fraud boss: EU parliament in 'too many' complaints

  • Anti-fraud office chief Kessler said the European Parliament 'maybe' has a 'structural problem' with MEP assistants (Photo: © European Union 2017 - European Parliament)

Giovanni Kessler, the head of the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, said on Wednesday (31 May) that “too many” allegations of misconduct were being made against the European Parliament and that the institution should consider improving its internal rules.

“Maybe you have a problem, a structural problem,” Kessler said about the parliament, at a press conference presenting Olaf's annual report.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Kessler: 'Maybe the system doesn't work' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

“Over the last year, the [Olaf] unit dealing with internal cases has been flooded with [allegations],” he said.

Kessler said that at the end of April, Olaf had 47 ongoing investigations that dealt with staff or officials of all EU institutions, “not only the parliament”.

But he noted that “most of them” involved investigations into MEPs, their assistants, or parliament staff.

Kessler would not comment on specific probes, or reveal the political affiliations of those under scrutiny, because Olaf never comments on ongoing cases.

“Also because there are so many, too many actually, that I don't even remember all of them,” Kessler said.

For around the past two years, Olaf has received allegations about MEPs' assistants being hired under false pretences.

In 2015, then president of the EU parliament Martin Schulz publicly accused some 20 assistants from the National Front, a French far-right party, of financial irregularities.

Last February, an Olaf report said a contract by the party's chief, Marine Le Pen, signed for her bodyguard could also constitute a "misappropriation of funds, or fraud and use of fraud".

“Then they reacted by reporting to us the situation of their colleagues,” Kessler said about Le Pen's party, Front National.

He said the allegations caused “tit-for-tat” reactions, a phrase he also used two years ago. But on Wednesday he said that such retaliatory accusations had occurred “also very recently”.

Kessler said he had addressed his concerns with the parliament.

“Maybe you have to better manage this issue of the assistants, which are paid by the European Parliament but supervised only by one MEP, the MEP of whom they are assistants. Maybe the system doesn't work,” he said.

“As far as I know, they have already started changing a bit the rules in order to leave less space for possible fraud or mismanagement,” said Kessler, noting the cooperation between the parliament and Olaf was good.

But he also noted that the issue of assistants fraud “should be addressed at a political level”.

“It's never good when you have investigators knocking at your door,” he said.

“When there are too many of these cases, maybe the internal rules should be improved, should be changed, in order to leave less space for manoeuvre, which today is very large.”

MEPs themselves are in charge of their internal rules of procedure.

Kessler's comments came as a consortium of journalists called The MEPs Project published an investigation about the possible misspending of office allowances.

Investigation

Citizens pay for MEPs' ghost offices

Each member of the European Parliament gets €4,342 every month, mainly to fund an office in their own country. But many of these offices seem nowhere to be found.

MEPs trade fraud allegations over assistants

Allegations that French far-right right MEPs have breached European Parliament rules on hiring assistants have triggered “tit-for-tat” accusations among other MEPs

EU parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us