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Parliamentary questions
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10 July 2019
Answer given by Mr Oettinger on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-002034/2019

1. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) registered the following number of cases of internal whistleblowing concerning staff members of the Commission: two cases in 2018, one in 2017, no case in 2016 and two in 2015. There is no data available for the years 2014 and 2013.

2. There are several existing means to protect whistleblowers against potential retaliation:(1)

— confidentiality of identity — only possible when the information is not anonymously reported. The identity of the whistleblowers is kept confidential vis-à-vis the person(s) potentially involved in the irregularity reported and used on a strict need-to-know basis.

— mobility — reasonable steps will be taken to facilitate the move of staff members wishing to be moved to another unit in order to safeguard themselves against potential hostile reactions from their immediate work environment.

— appraisal and promotion — a whistleblowers may ask that his/her appeal assessor is replaced.

— penalties for those taking retaliatory action — members of staff cannot use their position to prevent other staff members from complying with their obligation to report serious irregularities. Where staff members consider that they have been the victim of retaliation as a result of the disclosure of a serious irregularity, they are entitled to ask for assistance from the Commission under Article 24 of the Staff Regulations.

— anonymity: the protection offered by the Commission's guidelines is designed to reduce the need for anonymity, as anonymous reporting by staff members deprives the relevant investigative services of the possibility of asking the source for clarification or more information, and may also enhance the risk of frivolous, malicious or unreliable reporting. Nevertheless, OLAF offers the possibility to report anonymously via its Fraud Notification System. Staff members who report anonymously cannot benefit from the protection granted to whistleblowers, unless they agree later on to reveal their identity.

2. OLAF opened an investigation in one of the cases registered during the period 2015-2018 (point 1) and dismissed the others.

(1)Point 3 of the Guidelines on whistleblowing adopted by the Commission in December 2012.

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