Wednesday 26 April 2017

Kevin Cardiff’s EU job in the bag after parliament backs him

Irish civil servant Kevin Cardiff has secured a senior European finance role despite an oversight committee rejecting his application.

After intense lobbying by Irish officials, Department of Finance chief Cardiff was voted into the Luxembourg-based spending watchdog in an unprecedented U-turn.



The career civil servant was backed for a 276,000 euro-a-year post on the European Court of Auditors by MEPs even though he was embarrassingly rejected by a special advisory committee just last month.



One of the biggest objections against Mr Cardiff was that he headed the Government's finance division as a 3.6 billion euro accounting blunder overstating national debt was uncovered.



Another division of government, the National Treasury Management Agency, repeatedly warned about the error.



Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said both Europe and Mr Cardiff would need some luck with the new appointment.



"I don't want to personalise any of this whatsoever," he said.



"But the finance department lost somewhere in there, in terms of its accounting, 3.6 billion euro - it was on his watch, he's now been promoted, a sideways promotion if you like.



"He's going to need a lot of luck and with that kind of accounting the EU is going to need a lot of luck as well."



Mr Cardiff was voted in by MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg by about four to one - 521 votes in favour to 128 against.



He had been rejected by the parliament's Budget Committee in November - the first time a government nominee has been defeated - before his application was put to MEPs.



The Budget Committee rapporteur Ines Ayala Sender turned down the application and he was also defeated in a committee vote 12-11 following his public interview in Brussels.



Taoiseach Enda Kenny had lobbied support for Mr Cardiff from the Fine Gael affiliated European People's Party, the largest grouping in the Strasbourg parliament.



Several Irish MEPs, including Labour's Nessa Childers who later claimed she had been warned not to voice her opposition to Mr Cardiff's application, spoke out against his suitability for the auditor's job.



The Department of Finance general secretary was second-in command when the controversial blanket bank guarantee scheme was introduced in September 2008. He also represented the Government in negotiations with the IMF and EU.



Marta Andreasen, former EU Chief Accountant and UKIP MEP, said that she had hoped common-sense would prevail.



"The evidence was self-explanatory: Mr Cardiff, whilst in charge of the Irish Finance Ministry oversaw a 3.6 billion euro accounting error," she said.



"This is not pennies we are talking about here.



"Mr Cardiff's reward for this blunder is a six figure salary in an EU Institution tasked with ensuring the financial probity of the multi-billion Euro EU budget. It would be farcical were the matter not so serious.



"The political pressure and interference exerted to ensure his appointment today, notably by the Irish Government on the largest group in the Parliament the EPP, means that any integrity the Auditors may have had prior to his appointment now lies in tatters."

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