Monday 22 January 2018

Noonan backs top civil servant Cardiff for €180k EU job

Lyndsey Telford

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan is backing one of his top civil servants for a leading European job despite a €3.6bn accounting blunder that misreported Ireland's debt.

The nomination of outgoing Department of Finance secretary general Kevin Cardiff has been branded irresponsible by former chief accountant for the European Commission Marta Andreasen.

The MEP with the UK Independence Party claimed Mr Cardiff should not be considered for the €180,000 a year senior finance post within the European Court of Auditors.

"An auditor has to be always beyond any doubt," said the finance expert and eurosceptic MEP.

"In appointing him we would run the risk of him misplacing another €3.6bn. How can we trust the guy to identify irregularities in Europe if he couldn't do the same in a country as small as Ireland?

"The Irish Government is not showing any responsibility in putting him forward as a candidate."

Mr Cardiff was questioned last week by politicians following the embarrassing discovery that €3.6bn of debts had been double counted in separate branches of Government.

The National Treasury Management Agency initially flagged up the error in 2010 and contacted the Department of Finance asking for guidance on how it should be dealt with.

But the department claimed that the magnitude of the error only became apparent last week.

Ms Andreasen claimed it was Mr Cardiff's responsibility to prevent such a mistake and if he was unable to do so in his role in Ireland, he was not fit for the job in Europe.

She said as a senior civil servant it was Mr Cardiff's responsibility to ensure the right checks and balances were in place.

A Department of Finance spokesperson said the Government still fully supports Mr Cardiff as its nominee for the auditors' post.

Mr Noonan is in Brussels today for a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers.

Ms Andreasen will call for other MEPs at a Budget Control Committee meeting in Brussels this week to vote against Mr Cardiff's appointment.

The MEP, who sits on six committees in the European Parliament, was sacked from her job as European Commission chief accountant in 2005. She claimed to have identified alleged fraud in the EU book-keeping processes relating to a €151m discrepancy between two sets of accounts. She lost a case against unfair dismissal.

"The Irish Government has come out and said it was the system that went wrong and that's why the money was double-counted. But Mr Cardiff never came up and said the system doesn't work. Had he done that, as I did, then maybe it would be a valid excuse," she said.

Ms Andreasen has been a member of UKIP for five years. She joined the party because of the support it gave her after her sacking.

She denied that being sacked as chief accountant has left her with a hidden agenda.

"If people want to say I have an axe to grind then that's fine," she said.

"But I have always been concerned about performing my financial responsibility to the best of my ability."

Mr Cardiff was appointed to his post in the Department of Finance in 2010 by the Fianna Fail Government and played an important role in the EU/IMF bailout negotiations.

If MEPs support him, he will take up his post in the European Court of Auditors early next year.

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