§ Mr. Marlow
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which bodies and institutions can bring about investigations as to fraud in the European Commission; and which institutions can initiate publicity on fraudulent activities within the European Commission.
§ Mr. Garel-Jones
It is open to any individual, company or other body to bring to the Commission's attention any perceived irregularities, and to publicise such changes as they wish. The Commission itself, like member states, has the main responsibility to ensure adequate controls are in place to prevent fraud and to bring to light any fraud that occurs. In addition to the Commission's internal controls, the Court of Auditors has a responsibility to examine all Community expenditure, including the Commission's 289W administrative budget, and report to the Council of Ministers and European Parliament. Largely as the result of United Kingdom proposals, the Maastricht treaty would introduce measures aimed at improving the protection of the Community's financial interests. These include:
- (i) enhanced status for the Court of Auditors as a Community institution, emphasising the importance of the court's role (Art 4);
- (ii) an explicit reference to the Commission's responsibility to implement the Budget with regard to the principles of sound financial management (Art 205);
- (iii) a requirement for the court to provide the Council and European Parliament with a statement of assurance on the reliability of the Community's accounts and on the legality and regularity of underlying transactions (Art 206s);
- (iv) appointment of an ombudsman, able to receive complaints from citizens of the union and others concerning instances of maladministration in the activities of the Community institutions (Art 138e);
- (v) enhanced powers for the European Parliament in scrutinising the implementation of the EC Budget and the discharge procedure (Art 206b), and in setting up temporary committees of inquiry (Art 138c);
- (vi) an explicit reference to the obligation on member states to counter EC fraud (Art 209a).