Telling the Truth and Living in Limbo

An interview with Marta Andreasen, suspended chief accounting officer of the European Commission

 


Marta Andreasen, the European Commission's chief accounting officer, awaits her professional fate after declaring the EC's budget was “massively open to fraud” and endures suspension because of her honesty.

Marta Andreasen doesn't feel that she's a whistle-blower. As the European Commission's chief accounting officer in 2002 she believes it was within her duties, as any auditor, to report that the US$120 billion EC budget was “massively open to fraud.” The reward for her forthrightness was suspension from her duties and forced residence into professional limbo. As of publication, the EC's Disciplinary Board is reviewing her case after more than two years of suspension.

“I take this opportunity to express my dissatisfaction for being labeled a whistle-blower,” she recently said in an interview with Fraud Magazine speaking from Brussels , Belgium . (The EC requires her to reside in Brussels but she can't work or enter the EC premises. She returns to her home and family in Barcelona at the end of each week.) “I was the chief accounting officer responsible for all the European Union funds and I acted according to my professional integrity in the defence of taxpayers.”

After working many years in the private technology sector, Andreasen began her EC job with hopes of entering a more academic world. She definitely received an education but not of the sort she expected. Andreasen said she found “serious and glaring” shortcomings with the accounting computer system, no double-entry bookkeeping, and software that allowed any EC staff to change entries without leaving fingerprints or audit history.

She was asked to sign off the EC's 2001 accounts but wouldn't do it because she believed that she had evidence that the accounts didn't accurately reflect the financial situation. The EC hierarchy threatened her with dismissal if she didn't comply. She reported the accounting system problems to her supervisors – Commissioner Michaele Schreyer, and Budget Director General Jean-Paul Mingasson. On May 7, 2002 , she wrote to the EC's president, Romano Prodi, and vice presidents, Neil Kinnock and Loyola de Palacio, to also tell them about the problems. She says she requested their support to urgently implement measures to revert the situation.

On May 23, Kinnock and Commissioner Kinnock and Schreyer told her they were considering moving her to another position due to what Schreyer described as a “breakdown of relationship,” Andreasen says. “I expressed that I was in disagreement with any change as I had performed my duty diligently,” she says. “Kinnock then indicated that they could move me with or without my approval. I then asked why they had called me if they could make such a decision without my approval. He said he preferred to have my consent. I asked for three days to reflect. But as I learned later, on the same day, before I met with Commissioner Schreyer, she had already informed the Budgetary Control Committee at the European Parliament, in a closed meeting about the decision to remove me.


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