Press Release OLAF/02/2001, 19 February 2001

The independence of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in the execution of its internal investigative functions was once again called into questioned again over the weekend by an important German newspaper. It is for this reason, in the interests of transparency and information, that the Office makes reference to the regulation no. 1073/1999 which defines is mission and powers.

In accordance with article 4(5) of the aforementioned regulation OLAF is obliged to inform the European institution concerned (for example the Commission) whenever the investigations of the Office "reveal that a member, manager, official or other servant may be personally involved". It follows that from the Commission decision SEC (1999) 802 of 2 June 1999, which implements the inter-institutional agreement of 25 May 1999, and the model decision annexed to it, that the Secretary-General has been designated as the Commission's correspondent for the European Anti-Fraud office in this respect.

It is on the basis of this legislation that the Secretary-General of the Commission is informed about any internal investigation involving a member of the Commission staff. This duty to inform can only be deferred in cases requiring absolute secrecy for the purposes of the investigation or requiring recourse to means of investigation falling within the competence of a national judicial authority.

The letter of the Secretary-General of 11 September 2000 referred to by the newspaper in question was answered along this line by letter of the Director of the Office on 27 September 2000.

The Director-General of the Office, Mr Brüner, while fully respecting the will of the legislator, considers that the practical application of this obligation of information may, in certain cases, be problematic for the investigations and independence of the Office.

Reinforced by opinions, requested or delivered in this regard by the OLAF Supervisory Committee, initiatives are currently being implemented by Mr Brüner aimed at the best possible application of the legislation, while at all times guaranteeing the independence conferred on the Office by the legislator.

Mr Alessandro Butticé
Spokesman of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF)
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.5425
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.8101

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