OLAF: “excellent” results in the fight against fraud across Europe
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OLAF: “excellent” results in the fight against fraud across Europe

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) says it has achieved “excellent” results in the fight against fraud across Europe. In its annual report for 2014, OLAF completed a high number of investigations while continuing to reduce their overall duration.

It issued a record number of recommendations in over five years.

The Office recommended the recovery of €901 million, which it says should progressively return to the EU budget and help fund other projects.

Olaf say the results reported for 2014 confirm that it has become “increasingly efficient” over the last years, “bringing tangible” results for EU taxpayers.

“OLAF’s mission is to detect, investigate and stop fraud involving EU funds. Our work delivers concrete results. It ensures that EU taxpayers’ money is used for the purpose for which it was originally intended, creating jobs and growth in Europe” said the OLAF Director-General, Giovanni Kessler.

 “The results of our investigative activity in 2014 confirm the strong performance reported by OLAF last year. We have concentrated on those cases where our intervention is most needed and can bring real added value – on complex investigations in areas such as structural funds, customs, smuggling, trade and external aid. These cases will contribute to substantial recoveries to the EU budget.”

In 2014, OLAF received the highest number of allegations of possible fraud since its creation, 1417 items. This higher inflow of information does not necessarily mean that fraud has risen in Europe, but it shows the increased confidence that citizens, institutions and other partners place in OLAF’s investigative capacities.

Despite this higher inflow, OLAF succeeded in continuing to assess incoming allegations in a short time – 2 months on average – before deciding whether to pursue a case or not. Over the last three years, OLAF reduced the duration of the selection phase by 70% compared to previous years.

During the past year, OLAF opened a high number of investigations, 234. This confirms the trend reported over the last three years, when OLAF has substantially strengthened its investigative capacity.

On average OLAF now opens 60% more investigations than before its reorganisation in 2012.

Some 250 investigations were concluded. The average duration of investigations decreased to 21 months. This is the shortest average duration reported in over five years. By conducting investigations more efficiently, Olaf says the likelihood of cases leading to tangible results on the ground is increased.

OLAF issued 397 recommendations for financial, judicial, administrative or disciplinary action to be taken by the competent authorities, a record number in five years.

In 2014, OLAF also recommended the highest amount of financial recoveries to the EU budget in over five years, €901 million. These funds should progressively return to the EU budget and help fund other projects.

By Martin Banks