Martina Tombini

Dear European Anti-Fraud Office,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting documents that provide details on the travel expenses of OLAF Directors (Itala V., Schnichels D, Bianchi E., Sanz Redrado B., Hofmann M.) for the period 1 January 2015 to 30 April 2019 inclusive.

Specifically, I am looking for documents that contain (at least) the following information for each trip:
- Place of origin and destination
- Amount spent on travel or transportation;
- Exact dates and duration of the trip;
- Amount spent on accommodation;
- Amount spent on subsistence;
- Other information, such as possible miscellaneous costs.

I request that the documents provided contain sufficient details to be able to identify for each type of miscellaneous cost (what the money was spent on) and the total amount (in local currency and/or in Euros) for each item.

If the travel was by air taxi and a team of people were travelling, please also provide documents with details on the other travellers (at a minimum, names and job titles).

With respect to personal information contained in any documents that you might have, I note that the only information being sought here is the name and surname of the persons mentioned above, something which is already in the public domain. This request does not seek access to any other personal information such as bank account details. Nor am I requesting data such as the office addresses, signatures or telephone numbers of the staff members.

Please also take into consideration the following when evaluating the request:
i) In order to ensure that the European Anti-Fraud Office is both transparent and accountable with respect to the spending by public senior officials of public funds while on public business, it is absolutely essential that details of what the money was spent on be made public.  It is impossible for a member of the public to evaluate whether funds are being spent appropriately on travel, accommodation, meals, and other related costs, without knowing from where and to where someone travelled and for what length of time. To exclude details on to where and for what time period missions were undertaken deprives the European public of essential information necessary to scrutinise the spending of public funds.

ii) OLAF Directors should be standard bearers for the highest standards of probity and this can only be ascertained by having details about the way in which, and on what, they are spending public funds.  Indeed, in times of economic crisis across much of Europe, it is important that evidence be provided that public senior officials are not acting with undue profligacy, something that is essential in terms of accountability but also, more broadly, in shoring up or even in increasing the wilting levels of public trust in the European institutions. 
The right of access to documents as established in the EU treaties has at its heart the goal “to promote good governance and ensure the participation of civil society”. High levels of transparency on spending are necessary to achieve that goal. Hence, while generally there is an onus on the requester to demonstrate the necessity of transferring data that falls under the scope of Regulation 45/2001, there should be a general presumption of the necessity of transferring data that is essential to ensuring accountability by the public of the spending of public funds. 
With respect to the necessity of having the information above transferred to me in my role as Researcher and Campaigner at Access Info Europe, we as an organisation are working on a number of projects relating to transparency of public activity, including spending of public funds. In this context and in the context of our involvement in international initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership as well as our work on transparency of lobbying, we have a particular interest in spending by senior public officials and elected representatives. We are conducting research in this area across Europe, and are also working with journalists interested in obtaining such information.

iii) There is also no reason to assume that the data subject’s legitimate interests – in particular their privacy and integrity - might be prejudiced.  We are talking about senior (top level) public figures about whom much is already known; and the travels and meetings of these persons is often subject to proactive transparency. Hence there is absolutely nothing inherently private about the trips taken by the Directors, not where they go, nor when, nor where they stay, nor (in many cases) where they eat or are otherwise provided with refreshments and entertained. In other words, there is no specific and adverse effect that will arise from the publication of this data.  It also cannot be concluded that the publication of the amounts spent on the travel, accommodation, and related mission costs, when associated with the names of the Directors, would in some way prejudice their legitimate interests in a specific and adverse manner. In the first instance this is simply because we are talking about the spending of public funds and such information, even when associated with the name of an individual Director, does not reveal anything relating to the private lives of the Directors.  Second, even if it were in some way to be concluded that this information might result in some kind of comments about or even criticism of the Directors, it should also be taken into consideration that that non-publication of such information could be even more damaging. This situation is analogous to that which arose in the ClientEarth case where the Court concluded that publication of the requested information was likely to be less damaging than non-publication because “[o]n the contrary, such disclosure would, by itself, have made it possible for the suspicions of partiality in question to be dispelled or would have provided to experts who might be concerned with the opportunity to dispute, if necessary by available legal remedies, the merits of those allegations of partiality.” In a similar vein, while the continuing non-publication of data about the expenses of each Director is likely to result in a climate of suspicion and mistrust in which possibly false allegations could be made, the publication of the information could dispel such rumours and hence contribute to protecting the integrity of the persons concerned. 
Hence the two cumulative conditions set out in Regulation 45/2001 are satisfied and provision of the requested information would constitute lawful processing of personal data.

I thank you in advance and remain at your disposition to answer any questions or clarifications you might have related to this request.

Yours faithfully,

Martina Tombini

Dear European Anti-Fraud Office,

The response to my request is delayed. By law, you should have already responded.

Since you didn't even ackowledge receipt of my request, I expect that my FOI request will be completed within days and that in your reply you include the reasons for this delay.

Yours faithfully,

Martina Tombini
Access Info Europe
Calle Cava de San Miguel 8, 4c
28005 Madrid, Spain

Europäisches Amt für Betrugsbekämpfung

Dear Ms Tombini,
 
We refer to your e-mail dated 28/05/2019, in which you make a request for
public access to documents, registered on under the reference number OCM
(2019)12608.
 
Your application is currently being handled. However, due to the need for
further internal consultations and finalising the reply, we will not be in
a position to complete the handling of your application within the time
limit of 15 working days, which expires on 27/06/2019.
 
Therefore, we would reply as soon as possible and in any event before the
time limit with 15 working days in accordance with Article 7(3) of
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to documents. The new
time limit expires on 18/07/2019.
 
We apologise for this delay and for any inconvenience this may cause.
 
Yours faithfully,
 
EUROPEAN COMMISSION
EUROPEAN ANTI-FRAUD OFFICE (OLAF)
Directorate  C: Investigation Support
Unit  C.4 – Legal Advice

Rue Joseph II, 30 • B-1000 Brussels (Belgium)
[1]http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud
Our policy regarding personal data protection can be viewed on
[2]http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/about-us/...
 
 

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Europäisches Amt für Betrugsbekämpfung

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Tombini,
 
Please find enclosed the reply to the above mentioned subject, we
apologise for the slight delay which occurred due to the need to complete
necessary consultations.
The paper copy is following by registered post.
 
Yours faithfully,
 
EUROPEAN COMMISSION
EUROPEAN ANTI-FRAUD OFFICE (OLAF)
Directorate C: Investigation Support
Unit C.4 – Legal Advice

Rue Joseph II, 30 • B-1000 Brussels (Belgium)
[1]http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud
Our policy regarding personal data protection can be viewed on
[2]http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/about-us/...
 
 
 
 

References

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1. http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud
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