EU anti-fraud chief aims to speed up corruption cases

The European Union’s first dedicated anti-fraud commissioner has promised to deal speedily with future cases of whistleblowing in Brussels, as the outgoing commission team finally sacked its former chief accountant for alleged ‘unsubstantiated statements’.

Responding to complaints that it took two years to dismiss Marta Andreasen, who was suspended from duty for all that time, Siim Kallas told a European Parliament hearing that such cases “must be handled as fast as possible” under his term of office, which began on 1 November.

One of his first tasks will probably be dealing with a legal challenge by Andreasen about her sacking, prompted by her public claims that commission accounting procedures were open to fraud and other abuses.

Kallas said he wants to improve internal complaints procedures, so that whistleblowers become “a serious exception” in Brussels. However, he said he would maintain the existing protections for whistleblowers, no matter how limited they were, “as a pillar of confidence” in Brussels’ probity.

Kallas, the former Estonian prime minister, said he wanted to better exploit Brussels’ internal audit procedures, “as a confidential opportunity to freely discuss how things can be done better”, minimising further sensationalist public revelations.

On general HR policy, for which he would also be responsible, Kallas said he would oppose political appointments of senior officials, stating “there would be no parachuting into the administration”. Top jobs would always be awarded on the basis of professionalism, he said. And he accepted that some of the commission’s internal administrative procedures could be “simplified” as they were too complicated.

A conference to be held in the first half of next year, will assess reforms introduced by the outgoing commission of Romano Prodi and identify any rules requiring streamlining. However, Kallas has promised to bed-in the bulk of changes introduced in the past five years by Prodi’s team, such as the rotation of top positions in the commission.

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