Awards 2003: Personality of the Year

Awards 2003: Personality of the Year

She may not be the most popular person at the European Commission, but it seems the tough-talking, no-nonsense approach that caused Marta Andreasen's suspension from her role as the commission's chief accountant has hit a resonant note with Accountancy Age readers.

Andreasen’s award of Accountancy Age Personality of the Year rounds off a tough year for the whistleblower that saw her face a barrage of criticism for her refusal to sign off the commission’s 2001 accounts, followed by suspension and claims that she was attention-seeking and disruptive. However, her decisions at that time were largely vindicated by the emergence of new evidence to support her claims.

The suspension came on the back of her allegations that serious weaknesses existed in the EC’s accounting procedures. Neil Kinnock, the commission’s vice-president, claimed that Andreasen was not suspended for the criticisms she made, but because their relationship had broken down and she had decided to go public with her findings.

But, despite enduring an inquiry and threats of punishment, Andreasen was never subject to disciplinary proceedings over her allegations and in March, Jules Muis, the commission’s internal auditor, reported that the whistle-blower’s charges of fraud were ‘factually substantive and correct’.

Her treatment at the hands of the EC wasn’t even enough to put her off applying for Muis’ job when he announced that he was to leave early next year.

The application was practically a challenge to Kinnock to forget the past and start a transformation of the commission’s finances. ‘If Kinnock really believes in reform, he would want to get someone into the (audit) job who is also prepared to continue reform,’ she said in July. ‘If not, it means that all he’s been saying over the past three years is not true and that he’s not in favour of reform.’

Followers of Andreasen’s career will know that she is certainly no stranger to confrontation. Before her position at the EC, she had been appointed head of the accounting division at the OECD.

A clash with her then employer resulted in a bid to take the organisation to the European Court of Justice. She claimed that 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.

It seems that Accountancy Age readers respect those who fight against the odds. Last year’s winner, former Andersen senior partner John Ormerod, managed to secure a future for his UK staff as the rest of the firm disintegrated around the world.

Andreasen’s win is a vote for those who stand up to immense forces and, while this award is by no means against the odds, she was up against some strong competition.

Other shortlisted candidates:

  • Derek Higgs, author of the Higgs report
  • Digby Jones, CBI chief
  • William McDonough, PCAOB chairman
  • Robert Smith, chairman of FRC group on audit committees
  • Peter Wyman, PwC partner and past ICAEW president

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