Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Blessed are the righteous... if usually unemployed.

Definitions do matter. Somewhere in my lists of blogs printed or pending (so please accept now my apologies for any repetitions that may occur) is one about how I truly object to is having put 'none of the above' (or its nearest approximation currently, namely not ticking anything I don't fancy) on a polling form recorded and then listed as a 'spoiled vote'.

I get a similar feeling when I see the word 'whistleblower'. While there certainly have been those who have betrayed the trust of their countries or companies for less than noble reasons, the huge majority seem to have been motivated by genuine decency and sense of outrage at a deviation from ethical standards by those above and/or around them, who should simply know better.

Trouble is, despite the courage of their convictions and actions, they are usually hung out to dry. Firstly it's by those in their own organisations who should appreciate that rot, once established, will inevitably spread and corrupt all it touches, bad and good. Then it is by the guardians of society, who these days seem more obsessed with covering their own behinds than looking hard at those of others they have been tasked to monitor. And accepting the now inevitable failure of the system we pay to do so, even those traditional guardians of the public interest, the media, seem content to make a brief fuss and then drop any follow up in pursuit of fresh pickings. And then finally there is us, the public, who may get indignant, tut-tut a bit... but then allow our memories to fade as easily as all the rest.

So let me do my rather pathetic lone bit to keep a small flame burning in support of the EU official driven from her job for exposing widespread fraud at the European Commission's Eurostat data office. So far, no Eurostat official has been punished for the diversion of £3m of taxpayer funds into illegal accounts over three years ago in a scam described as a "vast enterprise of looting" by investigators. All the accused are still working for the EU or have retired with full pensions.

The heroic (that's a better word already) EU accountant who helped uncover the Eurostat abuses, Dorte Schmidt-Brown, has had to flee her home to Denmark after being subjected to a campaign of threats and harassment.

Despite Lord Kinnock, then administration commissioner, saying she had been treated "disgracefully" and sending a personal apology – though this is after him initially dismissing her claims as groundless - the European Court of First Instance refused her claim for redress and ordered her to pay her own costs.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory MEP and leading anti-fraud campaigner, has said: "They're covering it up, hoping we'll all forget about it."

I have not. And every time someone reads this blog, hopefully you will not either. Not just Dorte, but all the others like her, too. Maybe there should be a website devoted to them... and also those whose actions or inactions have managed to get them listed there. Let me know if you fancy getting one going. I am already seeing what can be done with the right message and access to the internet.