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I'm not a politician — just a bean-counter, says Andreasen

The Daily Telegraph: August 1, 2002
By Becky Barrow

Like many people at the European Commission, Marta Andreasen, the latest person to blow the whistle on her suspicions of lax accountancy practices, has an immaculate tan.

But unlike many of her colleagues, who are said to have ample time to sunbathe during working hours, Mrs Andreasen has been working far more energetically than her colour suggests.

Yesterday, she went public with the product of her investigations. The 47-year-old accountant, who speaks so softly in a heavy Spanish accent that journalists were literally crowding around her feet at yesterday's press conference, had the confidence to air her doubts.

In January, she was appointed to the EC, labouring under the long-winded title of "budget execution director and accounting officer", paid a salary of 125,000 euros (£80,000). Remarkably, she was the first professional accountant appointed to this role.

"I am not a politician," she said yesterday, the first words that she uttered. "I am a bean counter." Not that Mrs Andreasen, wearing a pretty blue suit with heavy gold jewellery, fits the stereotype of the timid man in grey bearing calculators and spreadsheets. Married to an economist who lives in Barcelona with their two children, aged 17 and 20, she has been practising as an accountant for 25 years.

Although living in Brussels during the week, she returns to Barcelona - yesterday she called it "the city that I love" - nearly every weekend. Born in Argentina, she has been a Spanish citizen for 16 years.

After qualifying as a certified public accountant in Buenos Aires, she spent five years working as an auditor at Price Waterhouse.

She left in 1982 to begin a 16-year stint as a finance and administration manager and then as a regional finance director at various companies, such as Rockwell Automation and Lotus Development, mostly in Spain.

It was Mrs Andreasen's next job, at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which launched her career as a whistle-blower, a description which she dismissed yesterday. She was simply doing her job as an accountant, she pointed out.

After joining the OECD in 1998, she noticed serious problems with its accounting systems, and raised her concerns with the management. When she suggested ways of reforming the system, they "disagreed completely", but subsequently hired Arthur Andersen to do an independent report. In August 2000, this report criticised the OECD's internal accounting systems as outdated and inadequate.

Mrs Andreasen, however, was suspended from her job for 15 months, a purgatory which lasted until October last year. Three months later she began her new job in Brussels.

Since she started to wave the red flag, she has been demoted to an insignificant role in the personnel and administration department. Although she still enjoys her full salary, she claims to have been given absolutely no work to do.