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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 21:49 GMT
Eurostat faces fresh criticism
By William Horsley
BBC European affairs correspondent

Members of the European Parliament's budgetary control committee have voiced fresh criticisms of the European Commission, the EU's administrative body, after hearing the final report of the EU's internal Auditor into irregularities in the finances of Eurostat, a key agency of the Commission.

European Parliament Pat Cox, European Commission Secretary-General David O'Sullivan and President Romano Prodi
Commission President Romano Prodi says no commissioners should resign
The parliamentary committee now has several weeks in which to consider what action, if any, it will recommend against the Commission itself.

The EU's internal auditor, Jules Muis, told members of the European Parliament of his conclusion that there were still "pretty big problems" in the management of Eurostat.

His team of auditors had ascertained that Eurostat officials had held slush funds in so-called black accounts relating to hundreds of contracts.

But because records had been destroyed it had not been possible to assess the scale of the abuses.

Mr Muis said he was sure further cases of bad accounts would come to light now that better procedures were in place.

A senior member of the committee, Paolo Casaca, reacted with dismay:

"This is the most problematic point. We did not find any proof of continuing new slush funds or financial envelopes, as they were called.

"But we found evidence of the multiplication of grants and contracts with organisms... and in ways... that should not have been going on - and they really did. That's quite clear."

Sanctions under discussion

Eurostat manages a large network of business contracts to collect, buy and publish data about the European Union.

Two months ago some members of the European Parliament called for the resignation of European commissioners responsible for overseeing Eurostat, or even for the whole Commission.

Mr Casaca strongly criticised the failure of those in senior positions to give a full account of the financial irregularities, even after several official resignations and a series of investigations.

The European Parliament has the power to call for the resignation of the Commission, as happened once four years ago, amid a welter of bad publicity.

The budgetary control committee will begin its deliberations at once.

By December it must produce a report recommending what action, if any, should be taken now.

Eurostat: Time for resignations?
25 Sep 03  |  Have Your Say
Q and A: Eurostat scandal
25 Sep 03  |  Europe

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