Dorte Schmidt-Brown (Danish) working for the EU’s Eurostat statistical agency, in January 2001, disclosed concerns about suspicious contracts agreed by Eurostat that led to official investigations and uncovered a trail of scandal and fraud at the agency.
Nothing Schmidt-Brown said has been disproved, yet she has paid heavily for her disclosures. The Dane, who joined Eurostat in 1993 as a project manager and was later promoted to head of a section compiling industrial statistics, took sick leave from the time of her disclosures until last December. She is now living on a E35,000-a-year invalidity pension in a deal struck with the EC.
Schmidt-Brown told the Brussels-based EU weekly European Voice in October that she had suffered a nervous breakdown after her exposures. ‘I am 37 years old and on invalidity benefit – hardly the best career move,’ she says. ‘I have sacrificed nearly four years of my life to this and suffered both psychologically and physically as a result.’
Schmidt-Brown said she had been treated as an outcast ‘and it got to the point where I was unable to enter my own place of work without my legs physically shaking. People often ask me if it has all been worth it and, from a personal point of view, you have to say, on reflection that, no, it hasn’t. But if you ask, if I would do it all again, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I would’.
This is an extreme case of the personal consequences of blowing the whistle.
‘To be a whistleblower, you have to be brave,’ says Christopher Heaton-Harris, a British conservative in the European parliament who monitors fraud in the EU institutions. ‘Theoretically, if you blow the whistle you’re meant to be protected, but the reverse happens. You are picked on by the system and ignored by your bosses,’ he adds.
Danskeren Dorte Schmidt Brown opdagede i 2001, som projektleder i EU’s statistiske kontor Eurostat i Luxembourg, at et privat firma fik betaling for arbejde, der ikke blev udført. Hun rapporterede problemet til sin chef, men intet skete bortset fra, at det private firma fik forlænget sin kontrakt med Eurostat. Da hun nægtede at betale en regning for arbejde, der ikke var udført, blev hun chikaneret af sine chefer. Hun måtte melde sig syg og lagde efterfølgende sag an mod Kommissionen. Hun rapporterede også om problemerne til Kommissionens næstformand, kommissæren for interne reformer, Neil Kinnock. Hun er i dag invalidepensionist.