Dutch auditor slams EU watchdog's cover-up culture

11th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch ex-member of the European Court of Auditors has criticised the body, which monitors EU spending, for a "culture of cover-up" and "Kremlin-like" censorship of facts until about six years ago.

"There was a culture of cover-up," Maarten Engwirda, who retired from the ECA on January 1, told the leftist Volkskrant newspaper in an interview published Tuesday.

"Nothing was said when colleagues tried to muffle up criticism of their own countries" when it came, for example, to problems with subsidies paid.

For a large part of the 15 years he worked at the ECA, the auditor said, there was a "practice of watering down" criticism.

He listed fellow auditors from France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria as some of the guilty parties.

"These abuses were never uncovered as a result of the Kremlin-like information we provided," said Engwirda, adding that things had improved in recent years -- particularly since the introduction of a review system in 2008.

In 2009, said the auditor, a total of 3.8 billion euros (about 4.9 billion dollars) was incorrectly spent -- at 3.3 percent of the budget the lowest percentage ever.

"Demonstrable fraud is less than one percent," Engwirda said.

© 2011 AFP

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