Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A taster

Yesterday I attended the launch of Marta Andreasen's book "Brussels Laid Bare". Setting aside the rather gruesom image that conjures up, this is a must read for all who want to have some insider information on how that extraordinary structure, the European Union, operates.

I shall write about the whole book but, for the moment, let me quote a couple of paragraphs that describe the situation she found when hired in 2002 to be Accounting Officer and Execution Director:
Yet the more I probed into the affairs of my own department the more I could see how the lack of controls made such scandals [like the Spanish flax] possible. There was little separation of duties - so that directors running programmes were also often authorising prayments. Indeed, when I began going through reports and acquainting myself with the computer procedures, I could scarcely believe the haphazard way in which much of the accounting was done.

Numbers in the computerized reports often changed from day to day. Some of the accounts came in on spreasheets on which anyone could make changes - and thus, if these were manipulated, leave no electronic trail. Some of the accounting did not even incorporate double-entry book-keeping - a system invented by the Italians in the 16th century - in which the two effects of every financial transaction are recorded: first, where the money comes from or goes to and, secondly, what is the item or service that is being paid for or received.
The complaint about lack of double-entry book-keeping had surfaced during the big scandal of 1999 that had resulted in the mass-resignation of the Santer Commission, which came back within an hour to continue as the Acting Commission. Clearly, nothing much was done between the two dates to rectify the omission.

We all know what happened when Ms Andreasen tried to draw attention to these and other problems. Her complaints were ignored and she was threatened with disciplinary procedure. When she finally went public she was interrogated by Commissioner Kinnock, heavily bullied and finally sacked. My guess is that the accounts are as much of a mess as ever. After all, the Court of Auditors has still not met an EU Budget it could sign off.

These are the people who are demanding more yet more power and money through the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty, solemnly telling us that the world will fall apart if they do not have that power and money.

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