Sacked EU whistleblower vows to fight on

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The Independent Online

Two years after she was suspended for claiming that the EU's multibillion-pound budget was open to large-scale fraud, its former chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, was fired yesterday in one of the last acts of the outgoing European Commission.

Two years after she was suspended for claiming that the EU's multibillion-pound budget was open to large-scale fraud, its former chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, was fired yesterday in one of the last acts of the outgoing European Commission.

Ms Andreasen, who plagued Neil Kinnock, the Commission vice-president responsible for reform, was dismissed on the ground that she committed an "irredeemable breach of trust" against her employers by going public with her allegations. She immediately promised to appeal and to try to persuade the next European Commission, led by Jose Manuel Barroso, to reinstate her.

The Commission said that, after 28 months of suspension on full pay, Ms Andreasen leaves with full pension rights. She described the concession as meaningless since she had not served long enough to benefit.

Argentinean-born Ms Andreasen, who has Spanish nationality, was recruited to the Commission as part of Mr Kinnock's job of reforming the EU's administration and tightening up accounting procedures in the wake of the resignation of the previous Commission in 1999.

Mr Kinnock suspended her in May 2002 when, after refusing to sign off the EU accounts, Ms Andreasen went public with allegations that lax accounting left the £62bn-a-year budget "massively open to fraud".

Her list of complaints included the fact that the Commission does not have a global standard double-entry book-keeping system, and that it lacked secure computer accounting programmes, despite complaints from the European Court of Auditors.

A Commission statement said: "The gravity of Ms Andreasen's conduct has constituted an irredeemable breach of the trust which the Commission is entitled to expect from its officials, and consequently made it impossible to maintain any employment relationship between her and the institution." But Ms Andreasen said yesterday: "I am shocked that the Commission has allowed itself to be manipulated by a few high-ranking officials who have been the ones who managed the funds for many years and who have judged me.

"I cannot agree that going to the Court of Auditors can, for a chief accountant, constitute going public.

"I intend to continue my fight on a legal basis and to make an appeal to the Commission. I will ask the new Commission to review this decision and to reinstate me." Ms Andreasen said that, if she fails to get satisfaction she will take the issue to the European Court of Justice.

Her case has been championed by British Conservative MEPs, who even suggested that she run as a Euro-MP. The sacking comes a fortnight before Mr Kinnock himself stands down at the end of his term as an EU Commissioner, and Chris Heaton-Harris, a Tory MEP, attacked the outgoing vice-president last night.

He argued: "This dismissal is a vindictive move from a failed Commission. All Ms Andreasen did was do her job properly. She raised concerns about EU activities. Neil Kinnock ignored them and has now fired her. I have a problem with any organisation acting against an individual in this way." But Ms Andreasen's critics point out that she was suspended as chief accountant of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development pending a review of complaints she made there about accounting standards.

The Commission statement argued: "The charges against Ms Andreasen related primarily to her unsubstantiated statements, made against Commission officials and a Commissioner, her failure to seek authorisation for a public statement that reflected on her position in the institution, and her failure to disclose essential and accurate information relating to her previous employment and the circumstances of her departure from that employment."

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