NUJ Brussels organised with the help of the IFJ a key press conference on EU financial liabilities on 18th Sept 2002. Marta Andreasen, whistleblower and former European Commission chief accountant, explained to a packed briefing room her concerns about financial transparency or lack of it within the European Commission’s budgetary department.Among her key points:
- The Commission does not have a secure or a coherent accounting system that supports the annual accounts; neither does the system allow traceability.
- The system lacks compliance with basic accounting principles such as double-entry book keeping. Double-entry is the most basic of accounting methods, in use since the 13th century, which allows control for each transaction of where money is coming from and where it is going.
- There has not been a treasury audit for the last ten years, whilst the same treasurer has been in the post for more than twelve years.
- The Commission is unable to establish cash-flow statements, a basic element for the management of the ï¿½ 98 billion funds entrusted to it.
- A new financial regulatory system is due to be implemented at the beginning of 2003, yet the Commission only promises to have an accounting system to support it by 2005. In the meantime the chief accountant will have to make payments without seeing the corresponding invoices or contracts.
Andreasen noted that her reward for refusing to certify the accounts, and for bringing these problems to the attention of the European Court of Auditors and the European Parliament, was suspension from her job and the launch of disciplinary procedures against her.
Remarking that the CFO and Controller of WorldCom had been imprisoned for presenting unreliable accounts and concealing information from auditors, she said, ‘EU taxpayers deserve an honest, transparent system of accounting that can protect their interests. At the moment there is no such protection for them – not even basic rules such as those that exposed the Worldcom and Enron frauds.’ ‘Some may see this as a conspiracy. If so it is a conspiracy based on and defence of political interests rather than bringing about much-needed reform to the EU’s financial administration.’