Progress report on the ASN action plan against the risk of fraud
The ASN action plan against the risk of fraud comprises a number of parts:
- reinforcement of the provisions made by the manufacturers and the licensees, who have prime responsibility for the quality of manufacturing and of operations, for example by requiring improved data security;
- the use of external control organisations, to help with monitoring of manufacturing activities, take samples and run cross-checks;
- improvements in ASN’s control practices more particularly regarding inspections methods;
- a request that any fraud detected by the licensee be systematically reported to ASN;
- the implementation of a system for collecting alerts from whistleblowers.
On 21 November 2018, ASN opened a portal to the public so that anyone wishing to do so can inform it of any irregularities regarding nuclear safety, radiation protection of persons and protection of the environment. This portal offers whistleblowers direct access to ASN, while guaranteeing that their identity will remain confidential.
At the same time, ASN has set up an in-house process for dealing with these reports, whether received by the website or by other means, for example by mail.
Since it was launched, ASN has received 22 reports, including 7 via the portal. The other main means used are direct contact with the ASN services concerned (regional divisions or departments), for 8 reports, and post for a further 5 reports. The rare reports for which the author wished to remain anonymous were all sent in by post.
Some reports are characteristic of potential fraud. These cases, in small numbers, are the subject of more in-depth investigations by ASN, once it has assessed the issues and made contact with the author of the report, in order to learn more about the details.
The reporting portal is not the only way at the disposal of ASN for estimating cases of potential fraud. Most cases, in particular those which often have the most significant issues, are reported by the licensees or manufacturers. ASN also finds cases during its inspection activities.
In any case, the processing work performed by ASN comprises a technical assessment of the issues for the facilities and equipment concerned, follow-up of corrective and preventive actions and sharing of information with the other administrations and licensees concerned, or even with ASN’s foreign counterparts.
At this stage, an initial review indicates that a variety of fields are concerned: basic nuclear installations, medical nuclear activities or approved organisations. The facts reported may be technical – such as the use of inappropriate materials or the non-performance of certain checks – or organisational, such as activities (welding, non-destructive testing, etc.) being carried out by persons without the required skills or controls being carried out by internal organisations. These cases may concern various aspects: modification of test results, falsification of the identity of the person who carried out an operation (technical inspection, welding, non-destructive examination, etc.), non-performance of certain operations (replacement of parts for example, or specific technical checks).
ASN thus evaluates the subsequent criminal or administrative follow up to be taken. It ensures that cases of potential fraud of which it is made aware are brought before the courts. Fraud is a misdemeanour which does not necessarily fall within the direct remit of ASN. ASN then informs the public prosecutor’s office of the facts at its disposal, pursuant to article 40 of the Criminal Procedure Code: four reports have already been submitted. The exact nature of these reports is covered by the confidentiality of judicial inquiries.
ASN considers that inspection is a means of reducing the risk of fraud by making the person perpetrating the fraud aware of the fact that their actions can be detected and punished. Studies have been carried out to adapt the oversight policy to this issue. ASN thus carried out pilot inspections to validate an analysis method appropriate to the most common fraud scenarios in nuclear facilities. This analysis method will shortly be implemented. ASN also initiated a series of inspections designed to verify how the nuclear licensees incorporate prevention of the risk of fraud into their buying policy.
Contacts have also been made with the National Drug Safety Agency and the General Directorate for Fair Trading, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control, for exchange of information on inspection practices to detect fraud. Some of these practices, notably with regard to the detection of falsified documents, will soon be incorporated into its inspection tools by ASN.
ASN has also started to look at how to make broader use of external control organisations.
Finally, a senior officer from the National Gendarmerie will soon be joining the ASN teams so that they can benefit from his expertise in this field.