On Independence Day +7, the EU is legally obligated to fix a bit of its own malpractice. Will this happen, or will the EU continue down a path of continuing failure, fraud and cover-up?
Here is the skinny. It is a long story, and I will tell it as briefly as possible. Why am I telling it? Because it represents in a demonstrable and unequivocal way just how corrupt the EU is, and how hard it will be to reform it into an honest and respectable organisation.
In 2003, Robert McCoy was Financial Controller of the Committee of the Regions, one of the many arms of the EU octopus. He had been working in various capacities for institutions of the EU/EEC/Common Market since 1974. The Committee of the Regions is something that might have been invented by the writers of Yes, Minister. It has a budget of several tens of millions of Euros a year, and (these days) 350 members whose role is, well, shall we say, nebulous. The Commission and the Council can, if they want, consult the Committee of the Regions whenever new proposals are made in areas that have repercussions at regional or local level. So, members of the Committee of the Regions travel around the regions at EU expense. To be regional. It is, in short, a very expensive talk shop.
Robert McCoy’s job, on its face, was to identify, report on and stamp out financial irregularities in the organisation. He was to verify the accounts. He was responsible to the President of that Committee, the improbably named Sir Albert Bore, a Scottish Labour party appointee, and a mayor in Birmingham. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that what Robert McCoy was actually expected to do by the Committee of the Regions was to turn a blind eye to those irregularities.
Well, Robert McCoy did find irregularities, and duly reported them, as his job required, to Sir Albert in 2003. There were serious irregularities. In other words, fraud. For example, Jos Chabert, who had been a President of the Committee of the Regions, had been making fraudulent expenses claims for attending “meetings” which had never taken place. There were irregularities in relation to dealings with contractors to the Committee. There were many abuses, Robert McCoy and his team having merely scratched the surface: millions of Euros were headed down the gurgler.
Sir Albert was not moved. He was not prepared to do anything more than say that he would think about it.
So Robert McCoy did what his duty required: he made known to the European Parliament that he could not sign off the accounts. Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee called him to give evidence on the record, which he did. The cat was now out of the bag.
There then begun a campaign by people with the Committee of the Regions to disempower, discredit and harass Robert McCoy. In particular:
- He was denied access to the material he needed to see in order to do his job,
- He was stripped of his staff,
- He was spat at by colleagues,
- The colleagues refused to speak to him,
- He was demoted, and sent to sit in what was little better than a broom cupboard, well away from anywhere he could resume his former functions.
On 29th January 2004, the European Parliament entirely vindicated Robert McCoy’s finding, and condemned his treatment. Its resolution included this:
- Supports the work of the Internal Auditor; [i.e. Robert McCoy] condemns, without prejudice to the outcome of the proceedings initiated by the Internal Auditor under Article 24 of the Staff Regulations, the official obstruction to which the Financial Controller/Internal Auditor and his staff have been subjected by the administration of the Committee of the Regions in the course of the exercise of their duties under the Financial Regulation; praises the Internal Auditor and his staff for their serious and repeated (but ultimately unsuccessful) attempts at convincing the administration and the Bureau of the Committee of the Regions of the need to take remedial action; recognises that in the absence of the protection normally afforded to officials who report wrongdoing, the Internal Auditor was right to take his concerns directly to the European Parliament and should not suffer any adverse consequences as a result;
So appalling was the treatment that he was subjected to that he was forced to take time out, and was treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hardly surprising, in the circumstances.
But the Committee for the Regions took no notice of the European Parliament’s findings, or its requirement for an apology, and its harassment continued. There was some press treatment at the time. For example, on 22nd July 2004 The Sun reported on the affair, identifying not only Jos Chabert’s frauds, but also naming Jacques Blanc – also a former President – who had, for example, made a claim for attending a “plenary session” in Brussels in June 2001 when a bit of enquiry showed that he was actually in Marseilles at the time. Not a good look.
In 2010, the Committee of the Regions refused to acknowledge that the stress to Robert McCoy’s health arose from his mistreatment. Robert McCoy complained to the Civil Service Tribunal, and on 7th May 2013, the Civil Service Tribunal delivered its verdict in his favour:
THE CIVIL SERVICE TRIBUNAL (First Chamber) hereby:
- Annuls the decision of the Bureau of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union of 10 September 2010 refusing to recognise that Mr McCoy’s invalidity arose from an occupational disease within the meaning of the fifth paragraph of Article 78 of the Staff Regulations;
- Dismisses the action as to the remainder;
- Declares that the Committee of the Regions of the European Union is to bear its own costs and orders it to pay the costs incurred by Mr McCoy.
A further decision in 2014 also found in Robert McCoy’s favour. Did the Committee of the regions repent? No, it did not.
On 28th April this year the European Parliament in P8_TA-PROV(2016)0155 resolved thus:
- Finds it unacceptable that the Committee [i.e. Committee of the regions] has been dealing with the same [i.e. Robert McCoy’s] whistleblowing case since 2003 and that, despite the Civil Service Tribunal judgments of 2013 and 2014, and Parliament’s discharge resolution of 29 April 2015, it has not yet complied with those judgments, recognised the plaintiff’s action as being legitimate, or finally closed the case; urges the Committee to take all necessary steps to resolve this situation without further delay and to admit publicly that the whistleblower’s findings were correct, as stated by the European Anti-Fraud Office and other Union bodies; calls on the Committee to inform Parliament of progress with regard to the whistleblowing case by the end of June 2016;
The word “whistleblower” is not entirely apposite. It suggests someone who is in breach of a duty of confidentiality. Robert McCoy, on the other hand, has not been in breach of any such duty: instead, he has done the very thing his job as financial controller and internal auditor required of him, namely to report findings of fraud through the correct channels.
So, that deadline of the end of June is due to arrive in just a few days.
- Has the Committee of the Regions complied with the judgment of 2013? No, not yet.
- Has the Committee of the Regions complied with the judgment of 2014? No, not yet in full.
- Has the Committee of the Regions recognised that Robert McCoy’s complaint was legitimate? No, not yet.
- Has the Committee of the Regions done anything to settle Robert McCoy’s case, or even been prepared to discuss settlement with him? No, not yet.
- Has the Committee of the Regions done anything to resolve the situation? No, not yet.
- Has the Committee of the Regions admitted publicly that Robert McCoy’s original findings were correct? No, not yet. Indeed, it has not even complied with the order of the European Parliament to apologise, even privately, let alone publicly.
So, the report required in a few days’ time, if it is honest, is going to say something like:
We do not give a monkey’s for your puny European Parliament. We have no intention of obeying your resolutions, nor any judgments of the Civil Service Tribunal, nor of staunching our abuses of taxpayers’ money, nor of admitting publicly that we have had our noses in the trough for years. And if any other Financial Controller is unwise enough to ever again attempt to control our finances, or to expose our wrongdoings, we will destroy his or her career just as we have destroyed the career of Robert McCoy.
The current President of the Committee of the regions is Markku Markkula. There is no evidence that he has had his nose in the trough. But is he going to require his bit of the EU machine to behave like an honest and respectable governmental agency, rather than a bunch of kleptocrats? The next few days will tell. It would be unwise, perhaps, to hold one’s breath.
I should say how I know this stuff. Robert McCoy is an old friend of mine, and he pointed me to material which is all on the public record. I know him to be honest and honourable, and he does not deserve to have been put through the mill like this. He signed something akin to the Official Secrets Act when he joined the EU, and has told me nothing which is not on the public record. He knows the names of others who are guilty of fraud, including those who continue to hold high office in the EU. Those people should of course be in jail. But that is not the EU way.
A few days ago, I voted for Brexit. None of this story suggests that I got that choice wrong.