OLAF in Kövesi's Crosshairs, Followed by AFCOS
After a long silence, the Romanian hope of the Bulgarians, EU Prosecutor № 1 Laura Kövesi, finally gave a sign that she had not been inactive all this time. The head of the newly established European Public Prosecutor's Office announced that the structure she heads should increase the effectiveness of the fight against financial fraud in the EU. Kövesi scrutinized the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), summing up her observation this way: the previous cooperation between OLAF and individual governments was too anemic.
Laura Kövesi also diagnosed the biggest infirmities of the European service: "Until now, OLAF has only done administrative checks. They did not conduct criminal investigations. Only a prosecutor can do that." And she said that the European Public Prosecutor's Office will be the only legal body at European level that will be able to launch an investigation.
"We will have prosecutors from all participating countries. The EPPO will harmonize the financial fraud procedure for all Member States. There are problems in all Member States on this issue. We can strengthen the protection of European funds and investigate these crimes better if we have a prosecutor on each side," Kövesi promised.
European Prosecutor № 1
delved deep into the Bulgarian wound,
the suffering from which has been taking Bulgarians to the streets and squares for the second month in a row. "We will investigate financial fraud and influential people. Because of such scams, involving many influential people, the sense of justice in us is already sufficiently stunted but there is no surgeon to implement an operative solution," she said.
After targeting OLAF, Kövesi also aimed at its BG analogues - the so-called AFCOS Council and the Directorate for Protection of the Financial Interests There is a reason - the Coordination Council in the Fight against Crime (AFCOS Council) includes a bunch of senior officials responsible for both the state of the country and the management of European funds and programs. The same ones that Kövesi defines as "influential" and who are "the most ordinary" representatives of the executive and the judiciary.
AFCOS Directorate at the Interior Ministry, for example, is committed to reporting on the
irregularities detected around the absorption of EU funds
to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
AFCOS reports must arrive at OLAF within the second month from the end of each quarter. That is, if the Directorate performs its duties conscientiously, the European office should be aware of the schemes and scandals with EU funds that periodically erupt in our country.
However, the cooperation of the Bulgarian institutions with OLAF has been really feeble, moreover - it has crashed. For a simple reason known as the bureaucratic vicious circle:
- AFCOS registers and reports suspicious cases;
- OLAF assesses which of them are violations and which are crimes;
- cases classified as crimes are sent to the Bulgarian Prosecutor's Office;
- cases classified as infringements are sent to the European Commission for possible sanctions.
Exactly such a vicious "circle" closed the scandal around the millions spent under the Rural Development Program - Measure 6.4. "Investment support for non-agricultural activities", popular as "Gest-houses for mothers-in-law". In the end, it turned out that there were only 21 files, although it is a public secret that at least half of the 746 guest houses were built in violation of the program.
However, the AFCOS Council
describes a bright future
without EU fines and sanctions.
This is enshrined in the 2020 Action Plan drawn up in relation to the National Strategy for preventing and combating irregularities and fraud affecting the EU's financial interests in the period 2014-2020. According to the Council, this plan is strictly implemented and, if it depends on its members, the European Public Prosecutor's Office will forget about Bulgaria.
Government activity in this direction is also within the framework of accountability and praise.
On his first official visit to Bulgaria in June, the current head of OLAF, Wille Itala, met with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and then-Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, who flooded him with optimism and wishes for even more effective cooperation in the future. This happened a few days after the inspection of the Anti-Corruption Commission on the so-called Apartment-gate case. And it - despite the obviousness of the facts - made it clear that the senior party and civil servants vetted in the case were not in a conflict of interest and everything was fine with them.
Apparently, salvation is in Kövesi's hands. And we hope she still doesn't give the impression that she's been doing nothing...