Friday

20th Sep 2019

EU auditor used public funds to hamper anti-fraud inquiry

The secretary general of the European Court of Auditors used public funds to hire lawyers and to sue the EU's anti-fraud office (Olaf) over an inquiry into how he hired security guards. He lost the case, but no action was taken against him.

A ruling by the European Court of Justice dating back to 28 February dismissed Eduardo Ruiz Garcia's claim for Olaf to withhold publication of a report into alleged irregularities regarding the security tender he had overseen.

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

  • Olaf investigators were proven right by the EU court of justice (Photo: European Commission)

It also dismissed his claim for the EU commission, which is the over-arching body Olaf is part of, to pay €6,000 in damages plus legal costs.

The Spanish auditor, in charge of administration at the Luxembourg-based EU body, earns over €16,000 a month. Still, his private legal action was paid for by his institution and he did not have to reimburse the money after losing the case.

"In the absence of accusation of any illegal or fraudulent action or corruption, the European Court of Auditors took a decision in 2011 to grant legal assistance to Mr Ruiz Garcia and the other ECA officials involved from the ECA budget, based on the article 24 of the Staff regulation," ECA communications chief Helena Maki-KorveIa told this website.

At the time when Ruiz Garcia took Olaf to court, however, the investigation had not been finalised, which is why EU's top judges dismissed his case.

"As for the decision taken by Olaf to invite a civil servant to a hearing ... it does not change his legal status to an extent allowing him to challenge it in court," the ruling reads. The top judges also note that according to EU rules all public servants have to co-operate fully with any Olaf investigation.

Maki-Korvela insisted that her institution as such co-operated fully with Olaf and that Ruiz Garcia's legal challenge was his personal right. He had repeatedly refused to participate in Olaf's hearings because the anti-fraud office "refused to clarify the context and nature of the hearing," she said on his behalf.

As for paying back the legal fee, Maki-Korvela argued that this could only be done in cases of "misconduct" by an ECA official, which was not the case as long as no legal charges were brought against him.

She also noted that at the time of the Ruiz Garcia debacle, the ECA itself was auditing Olaf's activities: "I do not say the two are linked, but that report was criticising precisely how Olaf is conducting internal investigations."

The two institutions were not 'at war' with each other over the matter and are still committed to fight fraud together, the spokeswoman stressed.

Letter

European Court of Auditors defends secretary general

The Secretary General of the European Court of Auditors cooperated fully with EU's anti-fraud office, but Olaf did not provide him all the information about the hearing it had invited him to, writes Geoffrey Simpson.

Ombudsman and OLAF chief to clash in November

The European Parliament has given the go ahead for a face-off between the European Ombudsman and the head of the EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF, after four months' delay.

News in Brief

  1. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  2. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  3. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  4. Germany takes carbon border tax onboard
  5. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  6. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  7. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  8. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  2. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  3. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  4. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  5. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  6. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  7. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  8. A new Commission for the one percent

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us