23rd Sep 2023


European Court of Auditors defends secretary general

Regarding the article "EU auditor used public funds to hamper anti-fraud inquiry" in the EUobserver published this morning, we would like to make the following points:

The Secretary General of the European Court of Auditors cooperated fully with Olaf in its investigation. His actions in relation to two security contracts protected the financial interests of the European Union.

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In 2010, following inquiries initiated by the Secretary General of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), two companies admitted to having provided false information in the tenders they had successfully submitted for obtaining contracts for security services at the ECA.

In those circumstances, the Secretary General of the ECA unilaterally terminated the contracts on behalf of the institution. He also imposed administrative and financial sanctions and initiated criminal proceedings against the companies in the Luxembourg Criminal Court. Those proceedings are currently ongoing. He informed Olaf of these irregularities and communicated relevant information at each stage of the process. Olaf started an investigation into the case in October 2010; the Secretary General continued to cooperate fully.

In addition, the Secretary General also decided to inform other EU institutions with similar types of security contract of its experience. This helped prevent further irregularities occurring, notably concerning a tender amounting to € 20 million at the European Court of Justice.

In early 2011 ECA established an internal security service as a replacement for the external contractors. This has proven to be successful, allowing the ECA to make annual savings of around € 500,000 per year, while continuing to achieve its security objectives.

It is important to note that Olaf has not at any time accused the Secretary General or other ECA officials of any fraud, corruption or other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the European Union.

In accordance with its obligations, the ECA fully cooperated with Olaf in this investigation. It provided access to:

• its premises;

• all relevant documents;

• computer records; and

• other ECA staff as witnesses.

In return, Olaf is required to conduct its investigations in accordance with its mandate and in full compliance with the legal provisions governing it.

The ECA considers that the actions taken in relation to the security contracts by the Secretary General and the other ECA officials involved in the case investigated by Olaf were taken in the context of their functions and aimed at protecting the financial interests of the ECA and the EU and that those actions were effective.

In the absence of any accusation of illegal or fraudulent action or corruption against them, the ECA took a decision in 2011 to grant them legal assistance in accordance with article 24 of the Staff Regulation.

The Secretary General has cooperated fully with Olaf with the matter, having provided and given full access to all information and persons involved in the case, as requested by Olaf.

When invited to Olaf hearings, the Secretary General repeatedly asked Olaf to clarify the context and nature of the hearing, including which material facts were raised by Olaf against him in his function as the Secretary General of the ECA and the legal dispositions connected to these facts. The purpose was to allow him to prepare for the hearing, as is his right (to defend himself and the administration under his responsibility). Olaf did not provide this information before any of the hearing dates they proposed.

Geoffrey Simpson is presidency director of the European Court of Auditors.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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