Kinnock backs move to charge EU whistleblower with breach of rules

By Stephen Castle
Thursday 09 January 2014 03:55
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The European Commission's former chief accountant is to be charged with three separate breaches of staff rules after going public with her claims that its accounting procedures leave its massive budget open to fraud.

As the row over the suspension of Marta Andreasen deepened, Neil Kinnock, the Commission's vice-president, insisted that action is being taken against her only because she broke internal staff rules by contacting members of the European Parliament and the media.

"Any public services in a democracy has similar rules," he said. "Ours are not more restrictive than anyone else's."

Ms Andreasen was moved out of her post to a different job on 23 May, after a series of clashes with senior officials over the Commission's reform plans. She subsequently took her complaints not only to MEPs but also to the European Union's Court of Auditors.

Three charges are being made against her: that she made negative public statements about her employer, that she failed to take complaints through the proper hierarchy and that she absented herself from work without permission.

Yesterday Ms Andreasen argued that the lack of control over EU accounts meant that the system could be changed "without leaving any trace" and left the system wide open to fraud.

She said: "The fundamental issue in this situation is that there is a lack of control in the €95bn [£60bn] entrusted to the European community."

The Commission argues that she is not a "whistleblower" because the weaknesses she cites had long been identified, and that Ms Andreasen was appointed to improve the situation. It also argues that her calls for the installation of a new computer system were impractical.

Ms Andreasen, who has been suspended on full pay, now faces disciplinary proceedings that could result in her dismissal. She will be interviewed in the presence of a lawyer if she wishes.

She has so far rejected this situation and demanded a public hearing, something which Mr Kinnock has refused to countenance. David Davis, the shadow Deputy Prime Minister, said that the Commission was "responding as it has done historically to criticism, by trying to down rubbish the person who raised the criticism, and that really is the biggest problem here.

"If your fundamental accounting systems are not there, nothing else matters and this is demonstrated by the way the Commission has dealt with Ms Andreasen," he told Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Kinnock hit back with a letter to Mr Davis that said: "I know that you are striving to re-establish your standing in the Conservative Party in difficult circumstances. Even desperation should not, however, make you produce assertions that are not supported by fact."

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