Poland’s commissioner-designate ordered to pay back MEP expenses
Poland’s commissioner-designate Janusz Wojciechowski has been ordered to repay thousands of euros in expenses to the European Parliament from his time as an MEP.
An inquiry by Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud agency, into the expenses he claimed uncovered a “series of inconsistencies.”
Wojciechowski, a current member of the European Court of Auditors, has now had to hand back €11,243 to the Parliament.
The move - and timing of the announcement - comes as an acute embarrassment to the Pole who will this week appear before MEPs in a confirmation hearing.
It is unclear what effect the Olaf probe will have on his chances of winning MEPs’ approval.
OLAF concluded the case with a recommendation to Parliament for both the recovery of €11,243 from the former MEP and a call for the institution to “further strengthen” the administrative rules relating to the reimbursement of travel expenses and payment of subsistence allowances.
No disciplinary or judicial recommendations were made concerning Wojciechowski in person.
The probe dates back to July 2016 when the Brussels-based Olaf was asked to investigate possible abuse of travel and subsistence expenses by Wojciechowski.
“As a member of the European Court of Auditors, I have been scrupulous in meeting my obligations towards the institution, both in regard to my declarations of financial interest and my obligation to act in the European interest without taking any instructions” Janusz Wojciechowski
Closely cooperating with the Parliament, the agency collected and examined a “significant sample” of Wojciechowski’s reimbursement claims and corresponding supporting documents.
A statement said that a “series of inconsistencies” were found in the reimbursement claims and that, as a result, €11,243 had been unduly paid by Parliament to Wojciechowski based on his travel declarations and attestations of attendance.
The statement adds, “OLAF notes that the sum in question has already been paid in full to the European Parliament by Mr Wojciechowski.
The news coincides with the release of written replies from Wojciechowski to MEPs ahead of his hearing this week.
In the long reply, he writes, “Throughout my time as a public servant, I have been very much aware of the importance of avoiding any position or situation that would call into question my independence, my impartiality or my availability.”
“As a member of the European Court of Auditors, I have been scrupulous in meeting my obligations towards the institution, both in regard to my declarations of financial interest and my obligation to act in the European interest without taking any instructions.”
He added, “I firmly believe that transparency is essential to strengthen the democratic legitimacy and sustainability of the EU and to earn the trust of its citizens.”
Wojciechowski is the Polish candidate for the key agriculture portfolio in the new team headed by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen and, in his reply, says he “would regard it as an honour and a privilege to support” von der Leyen’s “open, inclusive and cooperative way of working, working with her and the College to uphold the priorities of the European Union and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”
He writes, “I would be honoured to be offered the opportunity to take on this role at a crucial moment for the EU and for the future of European agriculture. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will be of key importance for the future of our farmers and of our citizens.”
Wojciechowski’s background is in law, politics and public audit.
In Poland, he was a judge at regional and provincial level before being appointed to the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Justice. He was a member of the Polish Parliament where he served as deputy speaker. He was President of the Polish Supreme Audit Office for six years and, in 2004, elected an MEP.
During his time as an MEP he was substitute member of the Committee on Budgets, a member of several delegations to neighbouring countries and a member of the Committee on Budgetary Control.
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