Have you ever heard of OLAF? No, not the cute, animated snowman but the European Anti-Fraud Office. If you are not familiar with it, here’s what you need to know.
What is OLAF?
According to the official definition, OLAF (French acronym for Office européen de lutte antifraude) is an institution that investigates fraud against the EU budget, corruption and serious misconduct within European institutions, and develops anti-fraud policy for the European Commission. In other words, OLAF checks if public money spent in European activities is distributed according to EC rules and conducts independent investigations into fraud and corruption involving EU funds.
Do I need to worry about OLAF?
This is a good question to ask yourself while executing your EIC Accelerator project. At first glance, the answer is simple. If your project is in line with the Grant Agreement rules as well as national and European law, there is nothing to be afraid of. OLAF pursues illegal activities, so if you stick to the rules they should never come knocking. Just remember that ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break it. Not knowing or understanding your Grant Agreement provisions will never justify irregularities in your project.
How does it work in practice?
In your Grant Agreement, you committed to allow OLAF to conduct audits and investigations related to your project, during the action timeframe and afterwards. If so requested, you are obliged to provide full information (including complete accounts, individual salary statements and/or other personal data) and allow access to sites and premises for on-the-spot inspections. You should keep all project documentation and be ready for potential controls up to 2 years after the final payment.
In practice, normally OLAF investigations are not started without reason. Usually, they are based on findings from previous checks and reviews carried out by the EC during the project or afterwards. If these controls show any irregularities, it may be a cause for starting an investigation by OLAF.
OLAF investigations can lead to the rejection of ineligible costs, reduction of the grant, recovery of undue amounts and, in a worse-case scenario, to criminal prosecution under national law. As you can see, the consequences can be very serious. To avoid potential problems, make sure you understand your Grant Agreement and Annotated Model Grant Agreement and always act according to your national laws.
Not sure if your project is in full compliance with the Grant Agreement rules? We can help: firstname.lastname@example.org