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IT bugs hang-out work of EU fraud busters



EU efforts to battle fraud have been hampered by bugs and delays in an €29m IT system meant to assist handle investigations extra effectively.

Olaf, the European anti-fraud company in Brussels, first put in the bespoke €29m ‘Olaf case administration system (OCM)’ in 2016.

Following years of issues, it’s meant to go absolutely reside in July — six years later.

However now Olaf’s Supervisory Committee has issued a advice to the company’s director basic Ville Itälä: he ought to perform a “detailed cost-based evaluation” of whether or not his company ought to persist with OCM or swap to a different system altogether, comparable to one already being utilized by the European Fee.

“Plainly the OCM database is just not even tailored to Olaf’s personal investigatory wants”, the committee wrote,” in an inside EU report seen by EUobserver.

OCM “might adversely have an effect on Olaf investigators’ day-to-day work,” the committee stated.

In the meantime, greater than half of Olaf workers have been pleased with the pre-OCM system they’d been utilizing again in 2015.

However after OCM was put in satisfaction plummeted to seven % and workers handed in additional than a dozen pages of potential tweaks to make, based on EU paperwork.

Two years later, in 2018, Olaf workers have been nonetheless saying OCM was “sluggish, unstable”, that “each time some [bugs] are fastened, new ones seem”, and that it made investigations drag out “even longer” than earlier than.

The fee’s Inside Audit Service regarded into OCM the identical 12 months and the Supervisory Committee cited worries about “repeated important price range overruns” and neglect by senior workers.

One 12 months later, in 2019, solely half of Olaf workers who responded to a questionnaire stated OCM was doing higher than it was in 2016, whereas some stated: “The system has been badly designed by inception and it and it might be tough to enhance it now”.

Olaf declined to inform EUobserver if OCM’s €29m value was considerably greater than initially foreseen.

“OCM suffered from typical teething problems with IT techniques of its dimension,” it stated. Any adverse affect on investigations had “not been noticed” it added.

Itälä, the Olaf chief, had taken OCM administration in hand since becoming a member of in 2018 and “since then, the system’s efficiency and functionalities improved considerably”, Olaf’s press service additionally stated.

The system at this time was “steady and near having all core enterprise functionalities carried out by July 2022,” Olaf stated.

It pointed to the system’s usefulness throughout the pandemic when most workers have been working from residence.

However even amid the 2020 lockdown a workers survey seen by EUobserver confirmed that simply one-third of customers have been pleased with OCM.

And whereas this was the very best quantity because it was put in, it nonetheless wasn’t fairly what EU taxpayers might need anticipated to get for €29m.

Olaf is supposed to battle circumstances of fraud involving the EU price range and to root out corruption within the EU establishments.

It concluded 212 investigations in 2021 (a typical 12 months), clawing again €527m in EU cash, and opened 234 new ones.

It really works alongside the European Public Prosecutor’s Workplace (EPPO), a brand new physique in Luxembourg that additionally combats EU price range fraud.

The EPPO opened greater than 1,000 circumstances in its first 12 months of labor, it famous earlier this month.

However Olaf is just not the one EU anti-fraud system to have confronted IT issues.

The fee additionally operates a database known as the ‘early detection and exclusion system (Edes)’, which is supposed to dam convicted fraudsters from accessing EU grants.

However the EU Court docket of Auditors in Luxembourg slammed the dysfunctional system in a report in Might.

“No person actually feels accountable for it. The fee doesn’t have a central overview,” Helga Berger, a court docket auditor, stated, echoing the Olaf story.

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