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Barroso denies meddling with auditors over EU accounts
Date 18/01/2011 18:07  Author webmaster  Hits 2875  Language Global
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso today denied that the Commission was meddling with the auditing process of its own accounts.

Mr Barroso was replying to UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen in Strasbourg over claims that the Commission has been applying pressure on the European Court of Auditors, which has refused to clear EU accounts for the 16th successive year.

Ms Andreasen, a former EU chief accountant who was sacked for whistle-blowing over slack accounting, called on Barroso to allow an independent external auditor to review the accounts.

Ms Andreasen began by reminding Mr Barroso of allegations made by former Dutch member of the Court of Auditors, Maarten Engwirda.

"The allegations, which come as no surprise to me, pointed essentially to the lack of independence of the EU auditors which affects the level of transparency in the reporting of irregularities," Ms Andreasen said.

"The clarification letter published yesterday by Mr Engwirda does nothing more than confirm the commission's power on the auditors and puts into question the basis on which this parliament has been granting discharge for the last 15 years.

"It is now time for this parliament to demand that the EU budget and accounts are audited by a truly independent body external to the EU institutions. Without this independent audit, Council and Parliament are in no position to continue discharghing the European Commission of its financial responsibility.

"Will you, Mr Barroso, allow an external auditor to review the accounts and tell us the truth about how European taxpayers' money is being spent?"

Barroso replied that "the European Court of Auditors is a fully independent body" and "the Commission has absolutely no influence over its methods or audit priorities." He added that "in previous years the Commission was subject to extremely critical reports from the Court of Auditors."

In her follow-up question, Ms Andreasen recalled the Commission's response to the criticism made by the Court of Auditors in the last ten years: "the Commission has turned to the auditors asking them to change their methodology of work so that their report on EU expenditure would show up other figures."

"In my 30 years of professional experience in the area of accounting I have never seen the auditee instruct the auditor on how to do its own work.

"How can we now know if a reduction in the error rate is due to the change in methodology requested by the Commission or to the improvement of the controls?" Ms Andreasen concluded.

Mr Barroso insisted that these were not instructions but 'opinions' and is in fact "an exercise in transparency".