Auditors urge EU to step up fight against fraud

BRUSSELS, The European Union (EU) must step up its fight against fraud and the European Commission should ensure leadership and reconsider the role and responsibilities of its anti-fraud office (OLAF), said a new report released Thursday by the European Court of Auditors based in Luxembourg.

“Currently, the Commission lacks comprehensive information on the scale, nature and causes of fraud. This hinders the effective prevention of fraud against the EU budget,” says the report.

Fraud is a hidden and complex phenomenon and protecting the EU’s financial interest against fraud requires comprehensive and systematic efforts. This is a key responsibility of the European Commission, it noted.

“The perception among seven out of ten EU citizens is that fraud against EU budget happens rather frequently, even if the situation might be different. Unfortunately, anti-fraud activities to date are still insufficient,” said Juhan Parts, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report.

“It is time for real action: the Commission should set up an effective system to prevent, detect and deter fraudsters,” said Parts.

On average, 17 cases per year in which OLAF made recommendations, fewer than half of all such cases, have led to the prosecution of suspected fraudsters.

Between 2012 and 2016, only about 15 percent of the total amount recommended was actually recovered, says the report.

The auditors consider the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) a step in the right direction.

In a first reaction , the European Commission said most of the improvements suggested in this auditors report have been tackled or about to be tackled.

“The Commission continues to have zero tolerance for fraud and corruption,” a spokesman for the EU’s executive committee, Alexander Winterstein, told a news conference in Brussels today.

“The report did not give a full picture of the fraud-fighting activities of the Commission and OLAF,” he added.

Source: Kuwait News Agency