Turkey: Von Der Leyen 'could have been set up' says expert
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Senior MEPs will look into the European Commission’s relationship with the so-called “Big Four” – PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY. The firms received more than £401 million between 2016 and 2019. Eurocrats also forked out on separate multi-million euro deals with other firms, such as McKinsey and Accenture.
German MEP Monika Hohlmeier told the Eurativ website: “We are going to look into how much money is given to the ‘Big Four’, but also to big companies and big NGOs.”
Her powerful budgetary control committee will start examining the Commission’s relationship with external contractors.
She said the investigation would go back as far as a decade to assess the extent of spending.
Splashing out on pricy contracts with external contractors has become common practice for the EU’s Brussels-based executive.
The firms are largely used to provide technical support to member states to assist with preparations for structural reforms.
Analysis of the most recently published data shows the Commission spent £21.1 million on contracts with the “Big Four” in 2019 – a third of the funds dedicated to technical assistance.
Ms Hohlmeier said: “We need to take a deeper look at the structural reform programme.”
The European Court of Auditors is also investigating the Commission’s dealings with external contractors.
Inspectors will publish their report early next year on whether the money paid to consultants was in the EU’s interests.
Following the announcement of the probe, 73 MEPS wrote to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to raise concerns with the amounts spent on external firms.
Ms Hohlmeier added: “We want money spent wisely. Expertise must not replace efficiency.”
MEPs suggested that some of the deals with contractors could present cases of conflict of interest.
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The Commission has defended its use of consultancy firms and the expertise they provide to the structural reforms programme.
A spokesman said: “They contribute with the best and most personalised offer to the beneficiary member state, in the most economically advantageous way.”
Under the scheme, the firms offer EU capitals advice and recommendations on how to implement regulations drawn up by Brussels.
These include sensitive proposals in areas such as justice, security, the labour market and health.
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But spending on external consultants also goes beyond work in the bloc.
The Commission spent £7 million for PwC to explore business areas for European firms in Southeast Asia.
Another £7 million went to EY to run a campaign promoting human rights in Pakistan.
And £867,000 went to Deloitte to conduct a study on the development of an online platform for dispute resolution.
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