Whistleblower Update

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The beginning of September saw the launch by dissident staff of the EU institutions in Brussels of a new nesletter. As the name suggests, Whistleblower Update aims to bring concerned "citizens" of the Union up to date with the activities and fate of those brave souls who have blown the lid on the festering dustbin of corruption which is the European Commission and any unsavoury goings on at the EU's other institutions.  Spectrezine is pleased to bring you edited highlights.

 

Whistleblowers in EU institutions have done and are doing their part, risking health, career, and happiness, hard day after hard day, enduring treatment which vilifies them as bad guys 'n gals. The situation they have been and are being put through is not encouraging for other officials, to say the very least. As several whistleblowers put it: "Don't become one if you want to keep your house, spouse or health".



So can we expect to see MEPs doing their part? WBU hesitates to read the tea-leaves, but the signs are not promising: e.g., recently COCOBU (the European Parliamentary Committee on Budgetary Control decided not to ask Mr Prodi about Eurostat, but instead left the getting of wisdom from the head of the Commission to the high politics of the Conference of Presidents - who then got cold feet instead of wisdom, and postponed. What sort of future do MEPs want for their voters?



So, how is Paul van Buitenen doing?



On 16 July 2003, in the extra Cocobu meeting, Commissioner Kinnock said that Paul van Buitenen - the man whose revelations brought down the Santer Commission in 1999 - could come back to the EC any time he wanted. A suitable job would be found for him. The very next day, Paul was indeed called to say somebody might have found a place for him, and did he want to come to DG Admin to discuss this offer? Paul was pleasantly surprised. Before the 16th of July, the letter in which he asked to return to a suitable post in Brussels, had made three unsuccessful rounds. It seems that until there was political pressure, nobody in the Commission could be found who wanted to stick his neck out for Paul.

 

And Robert Dougal Watt?



On 22 April 2002, Dougal Watt blew the whistle in the European Court of Auditors. He became persona non grata for his Secretary-General (SG) but not for his colleagues, who largely supported his claims about a fiddling Court member and additional wrongdoing, including cover-ups. Some of his strong recommendations given along with his warnings were followed up soon after he blew the whistle: contracts of all temporary secretarial personnel were extended to one year minimum, thus reducing their vulnerability to harassment, and the task of recruiting temporary personnel was transferred from the Court´s administrative service to a new inter-institutional recruitment body. Furthermore, in November 2002, OLAF recommended to Luxembourg and Greek state prosecutors that Mrs Kalliopi Nikolaou, former Court Member 1999-2001, face charges of fraud. OLAF also suggested to the ECA that a disciplinary procedure be initiated against a former assistant of Mrs Nikolaou, now a European official, who was reportedly charged with defrauding the Community budget of EUR 28000. But SG Hervé has still not started the disciplinary procedure for this official. Instead, on 17 July 2003 - Watt's 39th birthday - SG Michel Hervé fired Mr Watt, after what seems to be a highly questionable procedure, covered by the Glasgow Herald (and subsequently by www.euobserver.com), Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.  Mr Watt was given no credit whatsoever.



How about Marta Andreasen?



Andreasen's appeal against her removal (to another job within the same DG) was presented to the EC in December 2002. As per the Staff Regulations, Andreasen asked for the Commission's response by 10 February. The EC requested an extension until 28 March; and eventually - in May! - sent a 200 page answer. Andreasen responded in detail in July; and - again, Staff Regulation "rules is rules" - expected a response by 10 September. But the Commission again asked for an extension, this time until 24 October. When the Commission will actually respond, is anybody's guess. But who cares? The taxpayer is forking out, to have a qualified, committed and highly-trained professional out of work, for what may be years - a sorry state of affairs. For her part, Mrs Andreasen has done her best to return to the Commission. The Eurostat case, which the Commission thinks it is tackling - albeit three years later than it had good reason to - can count one very innocent victim in Andreasen, who all the time is banned from Commission buildings and e-mail, as if that were a decent treatment. Ms Andreasen applied in January 2003 for the published job of Director General of Eurostat. Although it was officially announced that the post should be filled by April 2003, Eurostat announced it was assessing candidates, and wrote to her advising she would be informed of the result of her application by May 2003, at the latest. But this time came and went, and Andreasen heard nothing. On 10 July, she wrote to the president and vice-presidents, informing them that she had applied for the job. On 22 July the Personnel and Admin. Department wrote to her to say, that on 9 July (just one day before Ms Andreasen wrote her letter!), the Commission had decided to cover the post by internal transfer of another Director General, Michel Vanden Abeele. If Mr Franchet was to retire, why wasn't the post filled in in April? Why was Marta never interviewed?

 

And Robert McCoy?



On 19 March 2003 Robert McCoy, Internal Auditor of the Committee of the Regions and former Financial Controller there, blew the whistle in a Cocobu meeting. McCoy's claims focussed on travel expenses and the systemic absence of supporting documents. MEP Van Hulten presented the case to OLAF. In July, President Fabra Vallés of the European Court of Auditors wrote to President Bore of the Committee of the Regions, to reassure him that McCoy's allegations had been found to be unsubstantiated. OLAF, however, has issued an interim report which contradicts these findings. But whistleblower McCoy hasn't been given a copy of the "interim" report - to which he was the main contributor! And OLAF gives no deadlines, as to when - or if - a version of its findings will be published.

 

More from Whistle Blower Update will be added as it appears.