Ausstellung: Guido Strack (EN)

Guido Strack

   EU-public servant on early retirement (Cologne)   

After two state exams with honours and a year at the Federal Ministry of Economics Guido Strack started his career in 1995 as an official of the European Commission at the Office for Official Publications in Luxembourg with many ideals. From 2001 he was responsible for the consolidation of legal texts. The mosaic of 4,000 EU laws and their amendments is scheduled to be put together before the big accession round of the Eastern European Countries – in 11 languages and made available electronically.
A qualitative task in terms of volume, time and new technology, an ambitious project.

The work is to be done by a private company after it won a public call for tender. Along a predefined contractual basis and within the specified requirements and under the control of the Publications Office. But right from the start the requirements in relation to quality, volume of production and its delivery deadlines were not respected. Normally the Office could or even should have had to refuse payments and impose contractual penalties, Strack requested this several times. The problem: The company has miscalculated its offer and now wants more money to improve its technical environment and to hire more people. Strack is sent in to negotiate and is then outmanoeuvred. His superiors are now negotiating directly with the company. Alleged technical innovations were used as a pretext to achieve the consent of a control-committee. The contract is changed, the company gets significantly more money for the same service, even retrospectively for the delayed and current deliveries. Penalties are never imposed. The basic idea of the public procurement process is undermined.

Strack has had enough, he looks for a new job in another Directorate General. But his conscience leaves him no peace. At the same time, the EU Commission adopted new rules to fight corruption. It pretends to have learnt from the mistakes of the former Santer Commission which was obliged to resign in 1999 because of nepotism and under pan-European public pressure: It created the anti-corruption agency OLAF. As from now on the official terminology is called, ‚zero-tolerance against corruption‘. All public servants are required to report financial irregularities. In return, whistleblowers would receive protection.

Not so with Strack. Mid-2002 he informed the new OLAF about his observations and assessments. 18 months later he gets the results of the OLAF investigation: closed without need for further action. No further explanations, no justification. Strack does not understand the world anymore. In the Final Case Report, which Strack receives only after insisting several times no doubts are raised in relation to his statements, no financial figures are mentioned – OLAF has reviewed neither the production delivery sheets nor the invoices. Instead, only the general statement that the activities were economically rational. The 4 million EURO damage, which Strack estimated, in OLAFs report amounted to 0, – EUR.

Strack pulls out all the stops. The EU Ombudsman notes misconduct by OLAF. But the EU courts deny his legal standing and the review of the Final Case Report, however they review his job performance report which suddenly becomes much worse. Similarly, the decision of his superiors, not to promote him. Strack also informs the OLAF Supervisory Committee and the Presidents of the Court of Auditors, the European Council and the European Parliament. But none of these EU institutions examine the facts. They all are satisfied with the Final Case Report of OLAF, although this does not contain any legal review while Strack submitted an extensive legal opinion that gave rise to the suspicion of many crimes. He is not allowed to inform legal prosecutors himself. For this he needs a permission to testify from the Commission.

For Strack all this is not without consequences. He becomes depressed, his family breaks up. In 2005 Strack is given early retirement – at the age of 40. Even today he is fighting for access to documents, permission to testify, compensation and rehabilitation. There are 7 Ombudsman decisions in his favour. But due to their lack of binding force they change absolutely nothing. The anti-fraud department OLAF and the EU Commission continue their blocking. His application for a mediation is rejected.
Strack initiates more than a dozen court cases before the EU courts. But in the EU court system officials complaints are worn down through long procedural times and waiving of inquiries – the EU funds, which were wasted are out of sight for most EU citizens. The result: Strack even where he won legal proceeding is obliged to request the implementation of the judgements from the Commission and sometimes take legal action again.

However Strack did not give up. He made the most of it: Strack is the founding chairman of the Whistleblower Network Germany, which got together in 2006 and wants to help other concerned parties. In mid-March 2015, Strack retires from the Board of the Association.

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 Foto: (c) Petrov Ahner   –   Text: (c) Johannes Ludwig – WBNW e.V.
Whistleblowing – Licht ins Dunkel bringen! – Ein Ausstellungsprojekt von Whistleblower-Netzwerk