UKIP MEP and former European Commission chief accountant Marta Andreasen has called for the European Union (EU) to use external audits following claims from a former EU auditor that irregularities are swept under the carpet.
Andreasen spoke to Accountancy Age in Strasbourg on the claims made by Maarten Engwirda, a Dutch auditor and former member of the EU Court of Auditors (ECA), that the ECA had been systematically intimidated and forced to water down critical findings about EU spending.
She said allegations that Mr Engwirda has made about the lack of independence of the auditors (already partially withdrawn) affected the level of transparency in the reporting of irregularities and “call into question the basis on which the [European] Parliament gives a discharge” of the EU’s annual accounts.
So, she said: “It was now the time to get a real external and independent auditor to audit the books of the EU and tell the taxpayers where the money is spent.”
Andreasen is no stranger to the position faced by Mr Engwirda. She was fired in 2005 for exposing malfunctions in the EU budget as a whistle-blowing insider.
Now an MEP for UKIP (the UK Independence Party), she promised to use her position on the European Parliament’s budget committee to try and force the European Commission to accept an external independent auditor to examine the EU’s accounts.
This week she publicly called on José Manuel Barroso, the Commission president, to allow an external auditor to examine the books. But her request had been refused and she claimed she had been repeatedly told by Mr Barroso the ECA was sufficiently independent.
“I did not agree and I am now in a position to bring a lot of pressure because besides the budgetary control committee, which looks at the accounts, I am also on the (parliament’s) budget committee which agrees on the money we are going to ask from the member states,” she said.
“I can put pressure saying we should not give any more money to the Commission until these people accept an external auditor…engaged and paid for by the member states.”
Andreasen also plays a part in approving the EU’s medium term budget for 2013 to 2020 (‘financial perspectives’ in EU jargon). And she is also involved with the House of Lords select committee on the EU which has invited her to give evidence on EU financial controls.
“Of course I’ll say we cannot give any more money to these people unless they have a proper audit. I am in a position today, unlike a few years ago, to put a lot of pressure on,” she said.
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