The European Ombudsman has concluded maladministration, the worst kind of breach of public trust, by the European Investment Bank. Her investigation of an Access to Documents request on the report of OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, on a loan of the European Investment Bank to Volkswagen, concluded that the report should be made public because its conclusions have an overriding public interest. Dennis de Jong, Co-Chair of the ITCO-Intergroup: “I’m very happy that the European Ombudsman now also concludes that this kind of secrecy doesn’t fit the European Investment Bank. The European Access to Documents regulation requires openness and transparency on documents to be the standard, not the exception.”

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) launched an investigation into a loan of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in November 2015. The OLAF investigation made its conclusions in the summer of 2017; and indeed, Volkswagen had been misleading the EIB in the acquisition of the 400 million Euro loan. In response, an investigative journalist requested from the EIB to give public access to the report and recommendation from OLAF. This conforms to the EIB rules for transparency; however, the EIB refused access. De Jong: “As I participated in both the EIB consultation on their complaint mechanism as well as their access to documents policy, I find it incredible that the secrecy of bankers weighs heavier than the public trust for the EIB. They should know better.”

Diesel-gate, the scandal that Europe’s largest car-manufacturers deliberately misled millions of consumers and many enforcements agencies on diesel car emissions, continues to roll on. The EIB has lent Volkswagen 400 million Euro’s to co-finance a research and development project to reduce diesel car emissions. Volkswagen using the loan to develop the ‘defeat device’ that produces misleading results. The EIB has only released a summary of the fraud investigation.

“How can the public still not receive the report that investigated this fraud? This is public money we are talking about, millions of consumers are misled. When public money is used for fraudulent business practices by large corporations we need to be especially strict.”, according to De Jong. “The Access to Documents regulation 1049/2001 still holds that overriding public interest should be considered more important than the protection in case of an inspection, investigation or audit. 18 years after the regulation was introduced, the conduct by the European institutions on Access to Documents still has room for improvement. I hope the next parliamentary term will take up this fight.”

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