Monday

19th Oct 2020

Dutch ex-member of Court of Auditors blasts endemic corruption

The Dutch member of the European Union's Court of Auditors - its budgetary oversight office - has blasted his colleagues and the European Commission for a "culture of cover up" and a tradition of watering down reports.

Maarten Engwirda, representing the Netherlands in the Luxembourg-based bureau, retired in January after 15 years with the court and finally felt free to speak his mind in an interview with Dutch centre-left daily De Volkskrant.

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"There was a practice of watering down if not completely removing criticism," Mr Engwirda told the paper. "I wanted to write a book, I was so sick of it all."

In particular, Mr Engwirda, a former politician with and leader of the the social liberal D66 party, which is staunchly pro-EU and federalist, accuses his French and Italian colleagues, amongst others of this type of activity.

But he also speaks of "heavy pressure" from then anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas in 2005 for the court to relax its standards.

Estonia's Mr Kallas now has the transport dossier within the commission.

According to the interview, this pattern of obstruction continued until after 2005. Only after Mr Engwirda had convinced his colleagues that their work be reviewed by national audit offices did things begin to change.

Since 2008, the Dutchman says that this sort of activity has stopped.

The Court of Auditors has never issued an unqualified opinion - essentially a clean bill of health - of the European budget since its founding in 1975. However, the European Commission and other commentators have long argued that this is simply a result of the very strict standards that the court applies.

Representatives of the court could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning.

Responding to the allegations regarding Mr Kallas, his spokeswoman, Helen Kearns, told EUobserver: "Mr Engwirda is entitled to his opinion, but that is not the recollection of the work done in that period at all. He had very conductive and positive working relationship with the court."

"Very significant progress was made under the Kallas mandate in improving EU financial management."

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