Lord Radice, chairman of the House of Lords European Union Committee, criticised press coverage which suggested there was a "significant culture of corruption" in Europe's institutions."Our investigation has uncovered no evidence to support this suggestion," said the Europhile peer.Hang on a minute. The House of Lords "investigation" into this was based on what? A massive in-depth EU wide audit? Did crusty peers go and raid Brussels institutions and rifle through filing cabinets?
No - in fact their "investigation" consists of them interviewing various sympathetic bods in their committee.
Looking at the Lords' reccomendations makes it even clearer that this is just a political press release. It reads like they have never read a CoA report:
- "Make a clear separation between the audit of the Commission's accounts - which has always been positive - and the statement of assurance on the regularity and legality of underlying transactions - which has always been qualified" (They already do this, as the suggstion implies)
- "Give separate verdicts on each different category of spending, instead of one overall verdict" (They do this)
- "Make a clear distinction between fraud and other kinds of irregularity, giving separate figures for each" (This is very hard to do, although they already do it to some extent)
- "Stop drawing conclusions about how EU money has been spent on the basis of an examination of a small number of transactions, which cannot "lead to an accurate picture of financial management" (This is just ludicrous - this is how every audit of a large organisation in the world works)
- "List member states which demonstrate poor management of EU funds" (They do this as far as possible - Its not a single 'list' though, as different countries and DGs do things badly in different ways).
"We are convinced by the arguments presented in favour of keeping OLAF administratively within the Commission. On the basis of the evidence we have received we emphatically refute claims that OLAF is too close to the Commission."Doh. No problems at OLAF then. Apart from this and this and this.
There is only one silver lining. From time to time the pro-euro camp show signs of better spin. They say that they are as keen as anyone to clean up brussels. They say that they want "reform". They talk a very good game.
However, moments like this are a useful reminder for everyone that, when push comes to shove, they would still rather try and cover up problems than attempt to change the system.