The Federation salutes the “performance” of Mr Giovanni KESSLER who is on track to secure a sweet deal this week: resignation from his post as DG of OLAF, simultaneously transfer to an adviser “hors classe” post specially created for him in DG BUDG, secondment of that post to head up the Italian Customs authorities, and abolition of the adviser post on his departure.
These arrangements are said to be in the "interest of the service", without any further explanation being given, as if that catch-all formula could justify any arrangement.
OLAF's DG is leaving his post a few months before the due date (it is a sensitive post that cannot be occupied by the same person for over seven years) to head up the Italian customs authorities.
Are the Italian Customs so inexperienced and short of talented staff that they have to take on a seconded Commission official?
The Federation notes in passing that, if successful, the manoeuvre should enable Mr Kessler to clock up ten years within the European civil service, which, as is well known, gives rise to an entitlement to an EU pension.
The Federation is surprised that Mr Kessler's departure will leave the DG position at OLAF vacant, without any successor being lined up to ensure the continuity of the service.
This is what we can read in the minutes of the College meeting of 11 October.
"The Commission has decided:
- to accept the request made on 15 September 2017 by Mr Giovanni KESSLER to be relieved of his duties as Director General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF);
- to create a temporary post of adviser "hors classe" in the Directorate-General for the Budget;
- to transfer Mr Giovanni KESSLER to that temporary post of adviser "hors classe" in the interest of the service, under Article 7 of the Staff Regulations, with the post being abolished on his departure;
- to second Mr Giovanni KESSLER to the Customs and Monopolies Agency of the Italian Republic in the interest of the service for a period of three years under Article 37 of the Staff Regulations.
During this posting, Article 38 (d) of the Staff Regulations will apply. The Customs and Monopolies Agency of the Italian Republic has agreed to pay the salary for the post occupied by Mr Giovanni KESSLER for the duration of the secondment."
For the Federation, that dazzling sequence raises many ethical and legal questions, most particularly that of a potential conflict of interests, and do violence to the rules governing the European civil service.
As far as ethics are concerned, have all necessary precautions been taken to avoid potential conflicts of interests in an arrangement whereby the Commission transfers the head of a control body to a competing organisation and, in addition, one in the country of his own nationality? The FFPE would like to be sure...
On the legal side, we are dealing with an appointment (as adviser "hors classe") to a non-existent function, since the appointed person will not perform it and nor will anybody else since the post will be abolished on his departure…
It is clear that the appointment is not made to fill a vacant post or to allow the holder to perform any particular function.
Has the Commission Legal Service carefully verified that this is not the equivalent in European Union civil service law of what French administrative law calls a ‘pro forma appointment’, i.e., a major illegality, to the extent that it renders the appointment decision null and void? Is this not an abuse of process?
What example is the Commission setting for staff as a whole and especially those at the bottom of the pyramid?
The Commission owes its staff answers to all these questions.
It must also without delay:
- review the decision on ‘external activities’ which is in the process of adoption, so that it clearly, explicitly and definitively prohibits such arrangements;
- ensure that it acts in an exemplary manner vis-à-vis senior managers, for whom ethical considerations are particularly relevant;
- give serious consideration to the career prospects of officials (AST/SC, AST, AD) and other staff (Contract or Temporary staff) instead of heaping goodies on “top management” that has no need for them.
The Federation will closely monitor this legally dubious, ethically questionable and morally untenable case.
The Federation/ La Fédération
You will never walk alone !