European Commission auditor, Paul van Buitenen, blew the whistle in 1998-99 on fraud and mismanagement. He first drew the attention of a Member of European Parliament to the irregularities in 1998.
For being a decent human being, a dedicated professional and a conscientious citizen he was suspended, had his salary halved and ordered to face disciplinary action. He fought on and his exposures triggered the collapse of Jacques Santer’s Commission.
The commission suspended him on half-pay for four months after his disclosures to the European parliament in December 1998. ‘The fact that they took the heaviest measure against me was, and is, outrageous,’ he says. ‘If you compare it to the director general and director of Eurostat – now accused of very serious wrongdoing and fraud and see that they’re just put into another service and still get their huge salary, I’m of the opinion that there’s not an equal treatment here.‘
Van Buitenen subsequently published a book and worked on a 5,000-page dossier delivered to the anti-fraud services in August 2001 which is still being investigated. After a year off without pay, Van Buitenen started again at the commission – in the personnel department – in September this year.
‘I don’t regret it, but whether I’d do it again depends because I have a wife who’s seriously ill with a brain tumour and cannot endure this situation again,’ he says. In the meantime, Van Buitenen has been awarded a knight decoration of the Queen by the Dutch government.
The 42-year old Dutch Euro-civil servant has now been named ‘European of the Year’ by Reader’s Digest magazine. He says he will donate his prize money to a fund in the Netherlands for helping other whistleblowers.