What is the mission of OLAF
The European Union budget finances a wide range of programmes and projects which improve the lives of citizens across the EU and beyond. The improper use of funds provided by the EU budget or the evasion of the taxes, duties and levies, which fund the EU budget directly harms European citizens and prejudices the entire European project.
OLAF fulfils its mission by:
- carrying out independent investigations into fraud and corruption involving EU funds, so as to ensure that all EU taxpayers’ money reaches projects that can create jobs and growth in Europe;
- contributing to strengthening citizens’ trust in the EU Institutions by investigating serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU Institutions;
- developing a sound EU anti-fraud policy.
What can OLAF investigate
OLAF can investigate matters relating to fraud, corruption and other offences affecting the EU financial interests concerning:
- all EU expenditure: the main spending categories are Structural Funds, agricultural policy and rural development funds, direct expenditure and external aid;
- some areas of EU revenue, mainly customs duties;
- suspicions of serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU institutions.
The lifecycle of an OLAF investigation
OLAF receives information about possible fraud and irregularities from a wide range of sources. In most cases, this information results from controls by those responsible for managing EU funds within the European institutions or in the Member States.
All allegations received by OLAF undergo an initial assessment to determine whether the allegation falls within the remit of the Office and meets the criteria for opening an investigation.
Investigations can involve interviews and inspections of premises and they are classified under one of the following three categories:
- Internal investigations: Internal investigations are administrative investigations within the EU institutions and bodies for the purpose of detecting fraud, corruption, and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the European Union; including serious matters relating to the discharge of professional duties.
- External investigations: External investigations are administrative investigations outside the EU's institutions and bodies for the purpose of detecting fraud or other irregular conduct by natural or legal persons. Cases are classified as external investigations where OLAF provides the majority of the investigative input.
- Coordination cases: OLAF contributes to investigations carried out by national authorities or other EU departments by facilitating the gathering and exchange of information and contacts.
After an investigation is concluded, OLAF recommends action to the EU institutions and national authorities concerned: this usually includes launching criminal investigations, financial recoveries or other disciplinary and administrative measures. It then monitors how these recommendations are implemented.