- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

BRUSSELS The European Commission was forced to defend how it was managing almost $100 billion of taxpayers' money yesterday after the bloc's Court of Auditors accused it of wasting public funds and using unsafe and unreliable accounting procedures.
In a leaked report obtained by the Financial Times newspaper, the EU financial watchdog says the commission's accounting system has "obvious risks as regards its reliability" and suffers from a "lack of security."
The report offered a scathing critique of recent attempts to reform the commission's accounting practices.
"Failures abound and are a waste of public funds," it says. "No account has been taken of generally accepted accounting standards."
The charges made by the Luxembourg-based auditing body appeared to support claims by Marta Andreasen, the commission's chief accountant, who was removed from her $120,000-a-year post in May after publicly criticizing the EU procedures.
Mrs. Andreasen, who was appointed in January, said the commission's accounting system was "vulnerable" and risked "error and fraud." She also accused the EU civil service of failing to carry out a substantive treasury audit in the last 10 years.
The commission yesterday rejected Mrs. Andreasen's claims, as well as the auditors' criticism of its accounting procedures.
EU spokesman Eric Mamer said the commission had "identified the weaknesses in its accounting procedures" and was "intent on modernizing them as Mrs. Andreasen was hired to do."
Mr. Mamer also rejected claims that Mrs. Andreasen, who was facing disciplinary action, had been fired for whistleblowing.
"If you blow the whistle on internal criticism made two years previously, it is a pretty weak whistle," he said.

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