Edmund Stoiber, chairman of the high level group tasked with advising the Commission on reducing the administrative burden on business, was appointed to chair the advisory board of Deloitte, one of the “big four” international audit and consultancy firms, on 11 November 2009. Just weeks previously, the President of the European Commission had said he intended prolonging the high level group’s remit and asking Mr Stoiber to continue heading it.

This new career development for Mr Stoiber comes as the group he chairs has mainly been producing opinions based chiefly on the calculations and recommendations of a consortium of private consultants. Deloitte is a member of that consortium along with Capgemini and Ramboll Management. The consortium’s work was overseen by DG Enterprise. European Industry Commissioner Günther Verheugen estimates that the consortium has pocketed 17 million euros for its work.

The quality of the consortium’s work has been repeatedly called into question both inside the Commission (especially by DG Employment and Social Affairs) and outside, by players like the trade unions and a minority on the Stoiber group itself.

The consortium’s reports were finally published by DG Enterprise on 13 November 2009, well after the deadline.

Director of the European Trade Union Institute’s Health and Safety Department Laurent Vogel says “Mr Stoiber’s appointment to a key position in the Deloitte group could well give rise to a conflict of interest between his new post and the high level group’s appointed task of assessing the quality of the consortium’s work to come up with coherent and cogent recommendations. The logical course of action would be to stand this group down when its mandate expires in August 2010. Whatever else, it would be outrageous for the group to continue being chaired by someone whose independence from the consortium cannot be guaranteed. The high level group’s experience of the work world, especially workplace health and safety, shows it to be a body most of whose members are prepared to cut back workers’ fundamental rights under the guise of reducing the administrative burden on business”.