Questions of Transparency in EU Heath Commission’s Tobacco Track and Trace Consultation

I have written twice now on the questionable hiring of PwC and Everis by the EU Health Commission to consult on adopting a track and trace solution for tobacco products in the EU.

After publishing my first article on the matter, which brought to light obvious ties between PwC and the tobacco industry, I began to work on a follow up. During the process of writing my follow up piece I turned to the commission itself for comment but received no answer in reply.

It was only after I brought the matter to the EU Ombudsman office that the commission took the time to respond to my inquiry.

Since publishing my first article I know of at least 3 European parliament members who wrote of their concerns to the commission as well.

Myself along with these members of parliament received rather vague responses from the commission.

Much has happened since these two articles where published. In December there was a stakeholders meeting and since then Everis has been tasked with conducting continued consultation work.

It is in light of the continued developments on the matter that I wrote to commission personnel as well as a spokesperson with a series of specific questions regarding the progress that Everis is taking.

Again, it took the commission over a week to respond my questions and they only did so after the intervention of the EU Ombudsman office and my bringing this to the attention of the tobacco control movement.

Below is the unedited question and answer discourse between myself and a commission spokesperson:

1) can You provide an update on the direction that the consultation is taking, specifically which of the three types of solutions is being considered: industry based, external or mixed solutions?

If your question refers to the policy options related to the model for marking products with unique identifiers, we are currently analysing and evaluating all the possible options and at the current stage no final decision has been taken.

2) What type of contact is taking place between PwC, Everis as well as the commission itself with the tobacco industry during this consultation process? Are any of the the above metioned bodies in touch with the tobacco industry between stakeholder workshops?

We wish to underline that the involvement of stakeholders and general public in this implementing process has been conducted in line with the rules on the Better Regulation and FCTC Article 5.3 . In this regard please note in particular that:

Following the Feasibility study (published in March 2015 http://ec.europa.eu/health//sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/2015_tpd_tracking_tracing_frep_en.pdf ) a targeted stakeholders consultations was conducted. The results of such consultation are published here https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2015_tpd_consultation_en

A second consultation, addressed to all stakeholders and the general public, was launched following the publication of the Inception Impact Assessment, https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2016_traceability_security_features_en

As prescribed by the Better Regulation rules, a stakeholder workshop was held in December 2016. A summary record of the meeting has been published here https://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/consultations/2016_stakeholderworkshop_tpd_en

The opinions received in the context of these consultations have been analysed and taken into account appropriately by the external contractor, Everis.

3) Does the commission or its consultants qualify Inexto as an independent, mixed or tobacco industry solution?

Please note that the role of the Commission in its implementation work is not to select any individual set of proprietary technologies, but rather to determine the technical standards for the establishment and the operation of the tracking and tracing system, as provided by Article 15(11) of Directive 2014/40/EU.

4) How do you plan on keeping the public up to date on this issue in between stakeholder workshops?

In addition to the requirements prescribed under the Better Regulation framework, summary records of meetings of the Subgroup on traceability and security features, as well as all other meetings with Member States, are published on DG SANTE official website.
Finally please note that in addition to the consultation of experts in the Member States the draft texts of delegated and implementing acts will be made public for 4 weeks on the Europa Website, allowing stakeholder feedbacks.

5) Can you please elaborate on what the exact roles of PwC and Everis are in the consultation process? We saw Everis heavily featured at the last stakeholders workshop but did not see any real presence of PwC. What is PwC’s role exactly?

The actual work is carried out by Everis. None of the members of the contractor’s team is currently working for PwC.

6) what will the consultation process look like from here through may (the next stakeholders workshop)?

In the context of the present implementation process the consultation with stakeholders and general public follows the rules prescribed by the Better Regulation. Please note that the consultation strategy related to the secondary legislation under Articles 15 and 16 of Directive 2014/40/EU was published in July 2016 (https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/tobacco/docs/2016_consultation_strategy_en.pdf ).

7) who specifically are you in touch with from the tobacco industry?

Please see reply to question n. 2.

8) Who are you specifically in touch with from Inexto?

Please see reply to question n. 2.

This, of course, only raises more concerns about the level of transparency and practices taking place regarding the track and trace solution much needed in the EU.

All of this is taking place in the shadow of the sale of a tobacco industry produced solution called Codentify, that the industry sold off to a third party that still contains questionable ties to big tobacco. The system has since been renamed and re-branded as Inexto. This is also a topic I have covered extensively.

I have even gone so far as to produce a video about the ongoing ties between big tobacco and Inexto.

The delayed response from the EU Health Commission only raises concerns that I mentioned in the above video.

I hope with the publication and sharing of this post additional responsible actors in Europe will seek clarity on this matter from the commission.

If anyone wants to write to them on this important issue please do so.

You can reach their spokesperson at: Enrico.BRIVIO@ec.europa.eu

Connections between GD SANTE, PWC and PMI Continued

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Two weeks ago I published an initial report on the fact that DG SANTE has hired PWC and Everis to conduct both a feasibility and implementation study of potential track and trace solutions to be implemented across the EU.

My article highlighted the fact that PWC has deep and open ties with the tobacco industry: mainly that they are the auditors of PMI and have done other work for other tobacco giants in the past.

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PMI’s website citing PWC as their auditors.

After discovering and publishing this information I inquired via the DG SANTE press office on the matter, to no reply.

Only after reaching out to several MEP’s and even the EU Ombudsman’s office did DG SANTE provide a long response from spokesperson Enrico Brivio which is featured below:

The Commission’s executive agency, Chafea, concluded a contract with the consortium of PwC and Everis for carrying out the implementation analysis regarding the technical specifications and other key elements for a future EU system for traceability and security features in the field of tobacco products. To avoid any kind of doubt, the ultimate responsibility for shaping an EU system remains in the hands of the European Commission, which for this purpose will prepare necessary implementing and delegated acts as envisaged in Articles 15 and 16 of the TPD

The Commission has taken multiple steps to ensure that a new contract for conducting the Implementation Study, which is intended to support the Commission in preparing the implementing and delegated acts as envisaged under Articles 15 and 16 of the Tobacco Products Directive 2014/40/EU , is free of the conflict of interest, in particular with the tobacco industry.

 Both consortium members, PwC and Everis, provided the necessary declarations in this regard. Furthermore, the project team’s members: (a) exclude at the present stage the employees of PwC, (b) are subject to personal declarations of the absence of conflict of interest and (c) where required are protected with Chinese walls within their structures.

The work of the project team, including potential conflict of interests, is continuously monitored by the Commission’s services. The key outcomes of the project will be also scrutinised externally, including discussions with stakeholders (including health NGOs), the Subgroup on Traceability composed of national experts and a panel of independent experts.

I remind you also that DG SANTE in particular has been praised in the recent past by the Ombudsman for the transparency of its procedures.

I inquired further, asking for elaboration on what type of “monitoring” will be taking place as well as what declerations PWC and Everis provided. As of the publication of this article I have received no further elaboration.

My concern is not intentional misconduct of the part of DG SANTE, I just want to insure there is no tobacco industry meddling in such an important consultation.

Further elaboration is needed.

My ultimate fear is the tobacco industry could influence PWCs recommendations in a way that suggest since Codentify has been sold to Inexto that it is now somehow independent.

I will be investigating the sale of Codentify further and already have some interesting leads which I hope to share in the coming weeks.

 

 

Connections between DG SANTE, PWC and PMI.

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On June 22nd the EU Commission Tobacco working-group’s  Subcommittee on Tracibility and Security Features convened a meeting in which DG SANTE informed the committee that they have subcontracted consulting work to two firms to conduct both a feasibility and implementation study of potential track and trace solutions to be implemented across the EU. The question is: are these third party firms truly independent of tobacco industry influence.

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Screenshot from DC SANTE document citing PWC and Everis as consultants on tractability solutions.

The Tobacco industry has produced and promoted a system called Codentify which they have begun implementing across Europe in an attempt to create an unavoidable reality in which their system must be chosen by default. In actuality this system may not even track or trace products and as the health conscious community raised concerns about the systems capabilities the tobacco industry sold the system off to a, so called, “Third Party” company named Inexto in an attempt to distance the product from themselves. This story I proudly broke to the EU observer some months ago.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) has explicitly stated that Codentify does not meet their standard for a solid track and trace solution for the industry.

The two company’s assigned the consulting task by DG SANTE  are PWC and Everis. The hiring of such firms came as some surprise to those watching this committee closely and when the firms names where announced it was important to explore if these firms have an intrinsic interest in supporting a tobacco industry produced solution.

After just an initial search it is clear that PWC has strong ties to the tobacco industry which put their objectivity in inherent question. PWC are the primary auditors for Philip Moris International (PMI) and have in the past done auditing work for British American Tobacco (BAT) as well.

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Proof from PMI’s website of an existing relationship with PWC.

Although this is just preliminary information I will continue to delve deeper into this issue and publish as more information comes to light.

 

Initially  DG SANTE refused to respond to requests for clarity on these matters but in recent days have responded. I will be including their full response in a follow up article.