Tuesday

3rd May 2016

EU institutions to be probed on whistleblower rules

  • EU institutions are required by law to implement internal whistleblower rules (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Several EU institutions are to be probed on their whistlerblower rules but the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) will escape scrutiny.

EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly announced an own-initiative investigation into nine EU institutions on Monday (28 July) but exempted the two banks because EU staff regulations do not apply to them.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

New staff regulations, adopted in January, legally bind the institutions to set up internal systems to ensure people who disclose fraud or other dubious behaviour are protected from blowback.

“I want to ensure that the EU institutions have in place the necessary rules to protect whistleblowers and to deal with complaints they submit about how they have been treated,” said O’Reilly.

Although both banks have whistleblower rules already in place, neither one is subject to the EU staff regulations.

The EU’s administrative auditor said it would not rule out launching a separate investigation into two banks at a later date.

Meanwhile, the nine EU institutions will have to report back to O’Reilly by the end of October.

The nine institutions probed are the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Auditors, the European External Action Service, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Data Protection Supervisor.

The Brussels-executive, for its part, has a had run-in with whistleblowers in the past.

Dutchman Paul van Buitenen was behind the 1999 revelations of corruption, cronyism, and abuse of power that saw all 20 commissioners under the then president Jacques Santer resign in disgrace. Van Buitenen quit the institution three years later because nothing had changed, he said.

In 2004, the commission fired its chief accountant Marta Andreasen after she said the EU's budget was being fiddled.

The commission then adopted new guidelines in December 2012 as part of its broader anti-fraud strategy but has yet to set up internal rules.

The guidelines explains the different channels for someone at the Commission “to blow the whistle” by bypassing the hierarchy, if necessary.

At the time, the Commission cited figures by the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf that it averaged around five cases per year.

A few months later in early 2013, its internal audit department set up an anonymous whistle-blower mailbox.

Brussels-based Transparency International (TI) in a report out in April found that most information received by the department “relates either to staff disputes within decentralised agencies, or journalists' enquiries for documents.”

It also noted that commission staff were the source of 165 of the 360 pieces of information received from the public sector by Olaf in 2012. It is unclear how many of those are whistleblower cases.

“They all have explicit obligations to have it but none of them really do except for the commission at the minute,” said Amanda McMenamin, a policy officer at TI.

The Council, for its part, says it has had internal whistleblower rules in place since 2006.

The article originally stated that the council has no internal whisteblower rules in place. This is incorrrect and the article was amended to reflect this on 31 July at 11:02.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary to hold migrant quota referendum by October
  2. France rejects TTIP in its current form, says Hollande
  3. New commander takes charge of US forces in Europe
  4. Spain issues arrest warrants for Russian officials
  5. Pro-Putin bikers refused entry by Poland, Lithuania
  6. Nato gives details of new Baltic force
  7. German state gets historic Green-CDU coalition
  8. Chinese police to patrol Italian streets

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Music CouncilRegister Now for the 6th European Forum on Music in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016
  2. Belgrade Security ForumJoin Our Team for the 6th Belgrade Security Forum. Apply Now! Deadline May 20
  3. European Roundtable of IndustrialistsCompanies Make Progress on Number of Women in Leadership Roles
  4. Counter BalanceParliament Gets Tough on Control EU Bank's Funds
  5. ICRCSyria: Aleppo on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster
  6. CESIWorld Day For Health and Safety at Work: Public Sector Workers in The Focus
  7. EFABasque Peace Process-Arnaldo Otegi Visits the European Parliament
  8. EscardioChina Pays Price of Western Lifestyle With Soaring Childhood Obesity
  9. Centre Maurits CoppetiersThe Existence of a State is a Question of Fact, Not a Question of Law
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at The Event: Prospects For EU Enlargement After 2019
  11. ICRCSyria: Aid for Over 120,000 People Arrives in Besieged Town Near Homs
  12. Counter BalanceHighway to Hell: European Money Fuelling Controversial Infrastructure Projects