PN210704E

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01

WEDNESDAY 21 JULY 2004

LORDS REPORT ON COMMISSION PROPOSALS TO STRENGTHEN EUROPEAN ANTI-FRAUD OFFICE

The EU Commission's proposal to strengthen the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) would do little to enhance OLAF's independence or accountability, according to a new report published today.

The House of Lords EU Committee inquiry focused on the Commission's proposals to reform the European Anti-Fraud Office whose mission is to  protect the financial interests of the Union and to fight fraud and corruption.

The efficiency and effectiveness of OLAF is being reviewed and reports from the Commission and the Court of Auditors are expected later this year. 

Meanwhile, the Commission, reacting to the controversial Eurostat case, brought forward a proposal to amend regulations governing OLAF.

The proposal was designed to strengthen OLAF's operational efficiency, to improve information flows between OLAF and the Commission, to ensure that rights of individuals under investigation are respected and to enhance the role of OLAF's Supervisory Committee.

The Director General of OLAF would be obliged to pass on information to the Commission. The Report recommends that he be given discretion to decide when, to whom and how much to disclose.

The Report endorses the proposal to make clear the rights of individuals under investigation, but expresses doubts about the value of handing over a list of rights upon interview in every case.

It rejects the proposal that the Supervisory Committee should be given responsibility for safeguarding "procedural guarantees". The Supervisory Committee should not get involved in the operational activities of OLAF.

The Report notes that the future of OLAF has become entwined with the notion of the European Public Prosecutor (EPP). The Report urges that the debate on the EPP should not distract the Commission from the need to examine ways to make OLAF more effective in fighting fraud.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The members of Lord EU Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) who conducted this inquiry were:

Lord Clinton-Davis

Lord Denham

Lord Grabiner

Lord Henley

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Lord Neill of Bladen

Lord Scott of Foscote (Chairman)

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

2. The report is published by the Stationery Office: Strengthening OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, 24th Report, Session 2003−04, HL Paper 139, ISBN 010 400511 4, price £17.50.  The full text of the report will be available shortly after publication on www.parliament.uk

For further information contact:

Suzanne Todd, Clerk to the Sub-Committee, on 020 7219 4579

For embargoed copies of the report contact:

Jillian Bailey (Press & Publicity Officer, Committees) on 020 7219 8659

[ENDS]