The proposed changes of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) will not be sufficient to make its investigations significantly more effective, according to an Opinion published today by the European Court of Auditors. In addition, while the proposal reflects well the principles of co-operation between OLAF and the future European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), certain issues could hamper effective collaboration, say the auditors. An Opinion on the EU anti-fraud programme for 2021-2027 is also being published today.
The key objectives of the European Commission’s proposal are to adapt OLAF’s operations in light of the establishment of the EPPO and to improve OLAF’s effectiveness.
Timeliness and the recovery of funds are major challenges for OLAF’s investigations, the auditors point out. They welcome the limited number of targeted measures in the proposal, including OLAF’s new mandate on VAT fraud, admissibility of collected evidence and access to bank account information. However, the auditors recommend that OLAF’s investigations be reviewed by the Court of Justice to ensure that procedural safeguards have been adhered to. Overall, the proposal does not solve the issues surrounding the effectiveness of OLAF’s administrative investigations, they warn. The Commission recognises this too, but a schedule for further reform of OLAF and a clear identification of issues to be addressed are both currently lacking.
“Increasing the effectiveness of its investigations remain challenging issues for OLAF”, said Eva Lindström, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the Opinion. “As it stands, the proposed reform of OLAF does not guarantee that the protection of the EU financial interests will be effectively strengthened”.