Marta Andreasen: A return to grace

Marta Andreasen has a knack for putting herself in the eye of the storm.

But after a tornado of criticism for blowing the whistle on accounting anomalies, new evidence has emerged throughout the year that has gone a good way to vindicating her claims.

Andreasen, one of this year’s nominees for Accountancy Age’s Personality of the Year Award, was suspended from her post as the European Commission’s chief accountant after she alleged that serious weaknesses existed in accounting procedures. She refused to sign off the 2001 accounts.

The accounts were later signed off. But the last time the parliamentary committee failed to sign off the accounts four years ago, it led to the resignation of the entire commission. Her charges and ensuing suspension have since unleashed a series of inquiries, investigations and much mud-slinging.

Since the commission’s vice-president Neil Kinnock suspended Andreasen – not for her criticisms, but because their working relationship had broken down and she had gone public with her findings – reports have justified many of her allegations.

Firstly, in March this year, a report written by Jules Muis, the commission’s internal auditor, described her charges of fraud at the EC as ‘factually substantive and correct’. Muis, a trouble-shooter, sorted out chaos at the World Bank before being headhunted to take over the EC’s audit service.

But this exoneration didn’t come soon enough for Andreasen. She had to first endure an administrative inquiry and the threat of disciplinary proceedings.

In April, she told Accountancy Age: ‘Last July, Kinnock launched an administrative inquiry that could lead to a disciplinary move. The procedures have not moved beyond that. Effectively, even after nine months, Kinnock has not decided to launch a disciplinary procedure against me. It’s very strange.’

Despite any threat of proceedings being dropped, many observers remain divided. Half believe the Andreasen is attention-seeking and disruptive, while others believe she was just doing her job and was unfortunate enough to uncover fraud at the EU.

The feisty Argentine-Spaniard took up her post as EC budget execution and accounting officer in January 2002. She had apparently been hand picked for the job by commissioner Michaele Schreyer. Andreasen was given full responsibility for the ‘funds extracted to the European communities’, which included the £63bn EC budget.

Andreasen is no stranger to confrontation. Appointed head of the accounting division at the OECD in October 1998, she clashed with her then employer.

Her spell there ended with her bid to take the organisation to the European Court of Justice claiming her human rights had been violated as she had not been given a ‘fair trial’ following allegations of racism, and that she raised ‘undue doubts’ and unsupported ‘alarmist allegations’ in relation to OECD accounts.

The OECD admitted that its accounting system was ‘archaic’ but denied Andreasen’s suspension only came as a result of the concerns she raised.


Related reading