11 October 2013
The new Regulation No 883/20131 governing the work of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) entered into force on 1 October 2013. This Regulation builds on the experience gained by OLAF since its creation, over fourteen years ago. It provides a clear statutory basis that codifies past practice and reinforces the effectiveness of OLAF's investigative activities. The Regulation also sets the basis for a better exchange of information between OLAF and its partners. These developments will allow OLAF to operate more efficiently and to step up the fight against fraud, corruption or any illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the EU.
The Director-General of OLAF, Mr Giovanni Kessler, welcomed the new text by saying that "the EU Institutions have now set the ground for a more efficient OLAF. The Regulation equips us with better tools to fight fraud against the financial interests of the EU. For the first time, we will have a framework for structured dialogue with our partners on the results of our investigations and their implementation."
Improved efficiency and protection of rights
Among other important features, the Regulation confirms that the mandate of OLAF extends beyond the protection of financial interests to include all activities relating to safeguarding EU interests against irregular conduct liable to result in administrative or criminal proceedings2.
It clarifies the mutual obligations of OLAF and the EU Institutions, Bodies, Offices and Agencies, including those concerning access to premises and access to information.
The new text specifies that the OLAF Director-General may open an investigation when there is sufficient suspicion that there has been fraud, corruption or any illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the EU. Such decision shall take into account OLAF's investigation priorities, and can be opened on its own initiative.
The investigative powers of OLAF are clarified and consolidated. These include the power to conduct on-the-spot checks and inspections. For the first time, detailed procedures for conducting interviews are provided.
The Regulation foresees that the Director-General establishes an internal advisory and control procedure, including a legality check. Among other matters, this will relate to the respect of procedural guarantees and fundamental rights of the persons concerned. The Regulation also requires the Director-General to adopt Guidelines on Investigative Procedures. Pursuant to this requirement, OLAF has already adopted new Guidelines for all staff on 1 October3.
For the first time, the Regulation brings together in statutory law a set of rights and guarantees for all persons concerned by OLAF investigations. These include: the respect for the presumption of innocence, the right to avoid self-incrimination, the right to be assisted by a person of his/her choice, to obtain a copy of his/her interview records, and to be given an opportunity to comment on facts concerning him/her before the conclusions of the investigation are drawn up.
The general monitoring role of the OLAF Supervisory Committee is also confirmed.
Better cooperation between OLAF and its operational partners in Member States
The Regulation acknowledges that the efficiency of OLAF depends greatly on cooperation with the Member States. Each EU Member State is thus required to designate a service to grant support to OLAF at various stages of an investigation (anti-fraud coordination service, "AFCOS").
Upon request, the competent national authorities will now report to OLAF on the actions they have undertaken following the transmission of OLAF information to them. This will allow OLAF to better monitor the follow-up given to its investigations on the ground. The Regulation also focuses on improving the information exchange with judicial authorities.
Cooperation with other law enforcement bodies and with third countries
Within its mandate to protect the financial interests of the EU, the Regulation provides for strengthened cooperation of OLAF with Eurojust and Europol. This includes the possibility of agreeing on working arrangements concerning the exchange of operational, strategic or technical information.
In order to strengthen its capacity to conduct operations outside the EU, OLAF can also agree on administrative arrangements with competent services of non-EU countries and with international organisations.
The mission of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is threefold: it protects the financial interests of the European Union by investigating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities; it detects and investigates serious matters relating to the discharge of professional duties by members and staff of the EU institutions and bodies that could result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings; and it supports the EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, in the development and implementation of anti-fraud legislation and policies.
1REGULATION (EU, EURATOM) No 883/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 September 2013 concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1073/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (Euratom) No 1074/1999. REGULATION (EU, EURATOM) No 883/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 September 2013 concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1073/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (Euratom) No 1074/1999.
2To be read in conjunction with Commission Decison 2013/478/EU of 27 September 2013, amending Decision 1999/352/EC, ECSC, Euratom establishing the European Anti-fraud Office, of 1 October 2013.