PracticePeople In PracticeGerman law specialist appointed head of new EU fraud-busting unit as screws tighten on fraud

German law specialist appointed head of new EU fraud-busting unit as screws tighten on fraud

European Commission vice president Neil Kinnock has named Franz-Hermann Bruener as director of the independent European Anit-Fraud office (OLAF) in the first stage of a series of moves to clamp down on financial mismanagement.

Bruener, a German, became a specialist in criminal law before moving to Bosnia-Herzegovina to head up the anti-fraud unit of the Office of the High Representative where he developed the international community’s anti-corruption strategy.

It had been hoped that the role would be landed by a forensic accountant but the appointment, which will be a five-year mandate from 1 March, received the full backing of the Commission, Parliament and Council.

Kinnock said: ‘The appointment of a permanent director is good news for OLAF and good news for the fight against fraud. OLAF’s staff is also set to double to a total of 300 by 2001, ensuring the further intensification of action to safeguard the interests of the European taxpayer.’

OLAF became operational on 1 June 1999 following the resignation of the Commission under Jacques Santer after a damanging report was published by the Committee of Independent Experts which uncovered massive financial mismanagement.

The move to appoint a director comes shortly after pledges by Neil Kinnock to back a radical overhaul of financial control systems along the lines suggested by the Committee of Independent Experts.

As part of the review, the Commission has decided to remove any potential conflict between internal audit and financial control tasks by creating an independent internal audit service under Kinnock’s direct responsibility.The service will advise the operational departments and audit the management systems.

In addition, a newly-created Audit Progress Board will oversee the enforcement of the audit service recommendations. This will be chaired by the Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer who will be joined by Kinnock and two other director generals.

Kinnock is currently seeking views of the audit profession on how the future systems can be developed. Any changes will be phased in through a transitional period wiht the internal audit service up and running by 1 May.

Europe hunts OLAF director

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