Audit head warns EC Poland plans to ease control over EU funds
Marian Banas, head of Poland's Supreme Audit Office (NIK), a body that oversees the functioning of the government and its agencies, has warned the European Commission (EC) that the Polish government may seek to curb NIK's control over the spending of EU funds.
The NIK head used to be a trusted ally of the ruling party, the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), and was appointed the audit office's head by the party in August 2019. But he quickly fell from grace after the media revealed he had rented his tenement house in the southern Polish city of Krakow to a person from the local underworld, who then used the property to rent rooms 'by the hour'.
Banas has been at odds with PiS since late 2019 and his office has performed a number of audits and issued several reports unfavourable for the government and its agencies.
Speaking to the private RMF FM radio on Saturday, Banas said he had recently talked to Gert Jan Koopman, director-general of the EC's budget department.
"It was a very important meeting and talks," he said. "The idea was for the (EU) funds to be supervised by NIK."
"Today there are attempts to set up a government committee to supervise the funds," Banas said, warning that the attempts were aimed to take the audit powers away from NIK when it comes to the EU post-pandemic recovery funds that Warsaw is still waiting to receive owing to a protracted rule of law dispute with Brussels.
"This is unacceptable. The director and his employees fully agreed with the fact that NIK is the only independent body that should be supervising those funds," Banas said.
Banas went on to say that Koopman had asked him "to present a report on the matter."
"But not only on this, also on certain situations aimed to deprive the (NIK) president of his immunity and on illegal actions or, to put it simply, violating the rule of law," Banas said.
"We will present him with this report in the coming days," the NIK head pledged.
Zbigniew Ziobro, the justice minister and prosecutor general, an ally of PiS, has asked the Polish lower house speaker to waive Banas's immunity in order to press charges against him. Banas claims the move is politically-motivated and refuses to give up his immunity, saying he is willing to defend his innocence in court when his term of office is over.