Is it mandatory to report?
If you are a Council of Europe staff member:
- You have a duty under Rule No.1327 to report any reasonable suspicion of fraud or corruption relating to the implementation of the CoE’s activities and the use of its funds and resources.
- This duty applies whatever the subject of the suspected fraud or corruption (e.g. staff members at any level or external third parties) or the source of allegations (e.g. if external third party reported suspicions of fraud or corruption to you).
- If you have doubts as to whether you should report a matter or not, please contact the DIO in a confidential matter. Failure to comply with this duty may result in disciplinary action.
If you are not a Council of Europe staff member but you participate in the Council of Europe’s activities, wherever they may be held, you are encouraged to report any reasonable suspicion of fraud or corruption relating to staff members, funds, and resources.
How is the identity of those reporting fraud protected?
- provides that "the identity of a person reporting information [...] shall not be disclosed, unless expressly authorised by him or her";
- allows that suspicions of fraud or corruption are reported anonymously.
It goes without saying that respecting requests for anonymity of those who report reasonable suspicion of fraud or corruption and respecting confidentiality in the process is of paramount importance. DIO attaches the utmost attention to respect these principles, applies the highest professional standards and abides to the Certified Fraud Examiners Code of Professional Standards.
The way anonymity and confidentiality are protected depends on the way a matter is reported to DIO:
- If you disclose your identity when submitting a report, only DIO staff members* who are entitled to receive a report will be aware of your identity. DIO will not disclose your identity to other entities, unless necessary.
- If you decide to send an anonymous report, DIO will not be aware of your identity (unless you make it known to DIO or other parties somehow) and will process your reporting as an anonymous referral.
When contacting either by e-mail or through the Hotline, the e-mail address/phone number used will be visible to DIO staff authorised to access the messages.*
If you decide to report the matter anonymously, please still provide some contact details (e.g. an email account which does not contain your name or surname), so that DIO can request further information as part of the preliminary assessment.
*the Director of Internal Oversight, the Head of Internal Audit division and the Investigator.
How do you ensure confidentiality and discretion during investigations?
The information gathered during preliminary assessments or investigation and the identity of those involved in the process is of sensitive nature.
Any party involved in a preliminary assessment or investigation must treat the information gathered during this process - including the fact that such a process is taking place - confidentially.
This obligation applies to everybody involved in the process, be they investigators, complainants, witnesses, subjects or other third parties involved.
To reinforce this obligation, DIO may request staff involved in a preliminary assessment or investigation to sign an ad hoc confidentiality declaration and to disclose any interest they may have on the matter at stake.
Secretariat members involved in a preliminary assessment or investigations who disclose information obtained in this context may be subject to a disciplinary procedure.
If I report suspicions of fraud or corruption, how do you protect me from retaliatory actions?
Rule No. 1327 provides for protection of individuals who report reasonable suspicion of fraud and corruption. This protection:
- Can only be afforded if the person reporting information makes their identity known to DIO.
- Can also be afforded to people who are wrongly suspected by the subject of a preliminary assessment or investigation to have reported fraud or corruption.
Protection from retaliatory action is provided irrespective of the person perpetrating such conduct. The protection afforded may vary depending on the retaliatory behavior, and may include - for example - temporary re-assignment of staff, temporary bans from the Council of Europe’s premises or temporary suspensions of collaboration with the Council of Europe.
If you consider that you are being victim of retaliation and:
- the retaliatory action amounts to sexual or psychological harassment - you may refer to the procedures laid down by Rule No. 1292 of 3 September 2010 on the protection of human dignity at the Council of Europe.
- the retaliatory action is of different nature - you may report the matter to the Director General of Administration for assistance and advice.
Please note that Rule No. 1327 does not offer protection for transmission of allegations in relation to suspected fraud or corruption which the reporting person knows are incorrect (i.e. malicious allegations made in bad faith).
Please refer to Rule 1327 of 10 January 2011 on awareness and prevention of fraud and corruption for further information on the protection against retaliation.
As a staff member, do I have any other duty in respect to fraud or corruption matters other than the duty to report?
In addition to the duty to report (see Question No 1) staff members have the following duties in respect of fraud or corruption examinations.
Duty of confidentiality
If you are involved in a preliminary assessment or investigation or you otherwise become aware of allegations of fraud or corruption reported to DIO, you must treat the information – including the fact that such a process is taking place – confidential.
The identity of a person reporting information or cooperating with the investigation should not be disclosed - unless expressly authorised by him or her or considered necessary - to any party (internal or external to the Council of Europe) and irrespective of whether the person at stake is a staff members or not.
Duty to co-operate
If you are a staff member and interviewed by those conducting the preliminary assessment or investigation, you have a duty to fully co-operate and disclose all information in your possession that may be of relevance.
Failure to comply with these duties may result in disciplinary sanctions. However, you may not be subjected to sanctions for failing to reply to questions that may result in self-incrimination.
I am subject to an investigation, what are my rights?
According to Instruction No. 65 of 28 June 2016 on investigations, the following rights apply to all persons who find themselves the subject of an investigation:
Right to be informed
If an investigation is opened, you will be informed without undue delay and in writing of the nature of the allegations, the names of those who will conduct the investigation, the procedure to be followed and the time-limit for the investigation. Further, if digital forensic operations need to be performed you will be informed, within the legitimate needs of the investigation, of the reasons for the access and the data accessed, and you will be invited to the opening of electronic data files. Finally, if there is no sufficient evidence to substantiate a report on possible fraud/corruption you will be informed in writing of the closure of the investigation; otherwise, you will receive the investigation report before it is transmitted to the Secretary General.
Right to assistance
If you are invited to an interview, you have the right to be accompanied by a staff member of your choice (provided that the person is not concerned by the investigation or by a related conflict of interest). Please note that the role of the accompanying person is to act as an observer, not to respond on your behalf.
Right to be heard
During investigations, you will be given the opportunity to explain your conduct, to identify witnesses and other relevant evidence and to present information. You will be invited to read, add comments and sign the records of the interview. Finally, you will have the opportunity to provide comments on the investigation report - if any - before it is transmitted to the Secretary General.
Right to a due process
Those conducting an investigation must be objective and independent, accountable only to the Director of DIO and may not receive instructions from any other persons. Further, they must report any conflict of interest that may arise in relation to an investigation, so that the investigation responsibilities are reassigned if necessary.
What shall I do if I have only a suspicion but I am not sure whether I should report the matter?
As a general principle, you should reach out to DIO for anything that seems reasonably suspicious. We kindly ask you:
- Not to wait to have full evidence that fraud or corruption has occured in order to report a matter;
- Not to conduct your own investigatory work in order to consider whether to report the matter to DIO.
Please consider that even limited information or questions could be relevant for DIO. A small piece of information or doubt may link to information that DIO has already received from other sources on the same subject, and their combined effect could provide relevant information requiring closer examination.
DIO has staff specifically trained to look into suspicions of fraud or corruption and ensure that this is done according to the highest professional standards.
If you are not sure whether a matter is serious enough to be reported, you can contact DIO on a confidential basis (without disclosing the identity of staff members involved in you wish not to).
You may have noted that under Rule No. 1327, the transmission of allegations in relation to suspected fraud or corruption which the reporting person knows are incorrect could constitute a breach of the internal rules of the Council of Europe.
This provision relates only to allegations that the person reporting explicitly knows are incorrect (e.g. malicious allegations with the intent to harm the person concerned) and does not relate to the transmission of allegations made in good faith.
What is the definition of fraud and corruption?
According to Rule No. 1327:
- The term "Fraud" shall be used to mean any illegal act or omission characterised by deceit, concealment or violation of trust, perpetrated to obtain money, property or services; to avoid payment or loss of services; or to secure personal or business advantage, irrespective of the application of threat of violence or of physical force.
- The term "Corruption" shall be used to mean requesting, offering, giving or accepting, directly or indirectly, a bribe or any other undue advantage or prospect thereof, which distorts the proper performance of any duty or behaviour required of the recipient of the bribe, the undue advantage or the prospect thereof.