Only two of nine institutions of the European Union have adopted whistleblower rules more than a year after a mandate to do so, according to a report released by the EU Ombudsman this week.
EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly conducted a review of the institutions which revealed that only the European Commission and the Court of Auditors have adopted internal whistleblowing policies. The institutions lagging behind include Parliament, the Council, the Court of Justice, the External Action Service, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, and the Data Protection Supervisor.
All EU administrative employees are required to report any serious irregularities they come across while performing their jobs. The agencies and institutions they work for were given a mandate in January of last year to implement internal whistleblowing procedures.
“The public needs to know that the EU institutions welcome whistleblowing and protect whistleblowers against retaliation to make sure that serious misconduct or wrongdoing in the EU administration are brought to light,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “While I am disappointed that seven key EU institutions have not yet adopted such rules, I commend the Commission and the Court of Auditors for having done so.”
O’Reilly launched an investigation in July into whether whistleblower policies were adopted as required, and urged the institutions without policies in place to accelerate their work. To help the EU institutions that have yet to adopt a formal whistleblower policy, an inter-institutional committee is discussing a common approach the agencies could use.
O’Reilly also formulated whistleblowing rules for her own office “to lead by example.” The ombudsman’s rules state it will keep the identity of whistleblowers – and the accused – as confidential as possible. Employees aware of serious misconduct, such as fraud or corruption, are expected to submit their complaint in writing to a manager in the office or to the external EU fraud office known as OLAF. Reports of wrongdoing will be reviewed quickly, with an administrative inquiry opened or the complaint forwarded to OLAF when deemed necessary. Whistleblowers also have the right to receive confidential guidance and support from managers of the office or from OLAF, the rules state. Those accused by whistleblowers also have rights to be informed and other procedural guarantees.
The Ombudsman’s Office said it would extend the rules in principle to employees of contractors or subcontractors working for the office.