OLAF /06/04 Brussels, the 22nd February 2006
In its first appearance before the European Parliament, the new OLAF Supervisory Committee made a presentation to the Committee on Budgetary Control (CoCoBu) yesterday, 21 February, in Brussels. The five independent experts, whose statutory task is to reinforce the European Anti-Fraud Office's (OLAF) independence by regular monitoring of the implementation of the investigative function, see themselves in "the role of a critical friend" for OLAF. The Office welcomed the new approach.
"We are very happy about this fresh start and the constructive approach", OLAF Director General Franz-Hermann Brüner said after the presentation made to the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control (CoCoBu) in Brussels by the chairwoman of the new OLAF-Supervisory Committee, Mrs Rosalind Wright, in the presence and on behalf of the other members Dr Kálmán Györgyi, Mr Luis López Sanz-Aranguez, Mr Peter Strömberg and Mrs Diemut Theato. The presentation was followed by an exchange of views with Members of Parliament. The OLAF Supervisory Committee is an independent board composed of five experts from outside the European Institutions who are all, with one exception, senior public lawyers in their own countries, each with a high level of experience of prosecution and investigations. Three of them have had very extensive experience of the workings of the European Institutions. The new Committee took office for a three-year term in November 2005 (see press release OLAF/05/18).
In her speech, which is available on the OLAF website, Mrs Wright said: "We have the role of a critical friend, to support, but also to challenge, to question and to make our own constructive suggestions for improvement, where we see the need to do so." And she continued: "We regard our own independence and neutrality as of the highest importance in safeguarding OLAF's own independence".
In its presentation to the Parliament the Supervisory Committee identified three central issues for its work:
Referring to "the legacy of the past" the Supervisory Committee's chair said: "A very real concern over the past few years has been the leaking of confidential documents which had been kept by the Supervisory Committee and its secretariat to unauthorised persons, including journalists and parties in litigation against the Commission". She went on to say: "The leaks that I have referred to and indeed the lengthy process to appoint a new Director-general, following the expiry of Mr Brüner's contract in March 2005, have undermined the morale of the staff of OLAF and have served as a distraction form the real work of the Office. Now that the leaks have, hopefully, ceased and are being investigated and Mr Brüner has, been reappointed for his final term as Director General, OLAF can reapply itself with renewed vigour to its heavy work programme". Mrs Wright added: "The success of the Supervisory Committee will be measured by the success of OLAF itself", and concluded: "It is of the highest importance that OLAF's integrity and independence are respected at all levels".
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