The Commission's former chief Accounting Officer was supposed to give a presentation on the faults and failings she believes exist within the Commission's accounting system on December 4. The Parliament, through its Conference of Presidents of the political groups, decided in October not to authorise a formal hearing for her in the Budgetary Control Committee. Its argument was that unless Ms Andreasen brought new allegations against the Commission she should not get a public hearing. However, a group of dissident MEPs, several of who are from the United Kingdom Conservative Party, went ahead and organised a "forbidden hearing". This turbulent meeting came the same day that the Parliament debated the Court of Auditors report on the Commission's accounts for 2001.

Despite numerous pleas from MEPs and journalists, Ms Andreasen would not detail her accusations about the unreliability of the Commission's accounts. She first publicly aired these allegations during the Summer, just months after she started work in the Commission in January 2002 to help overhaul the accounting system. Ms Andreasen told the hearing that she had never accused specific people in the Commission but that her problem was rather with the vulnerability of the system in general. She refused to answer why she had been suspended from a previous accounting position in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Commenting on Commission claims that it was because of "trouble-making" she replied: "If you have received such information from the Commission, you shouldn't have because it is 'sub judice'".

Meanwhile, Gabriele Stauner (EPP-ED, Germany), who chaired the meeting, said she was "very disappointed and surprised by the Commission's conduct" which she saw as a "mild threat". She pointed out that Article 97 of the EU Treaty gives the Parliament the right to information in such cases. "I would not grant budgetary discharge for this year unless there is a thorough change of the system", she said.

Other MEPs used much stronger language. Bashir Khanbai (EPP-ED, UK) called the Commission's action "an abuse of political power". His British Conservative colleague Chris Heaton-Harris labelled it "gagging democracy". Mr Heaton-Harris was also scathing about the Commission's decision to replace Ms Andreasen with a "a qualified commercial engineer". Dutch MEP Rijk Van Daem from the Euro-sceptic EDD Group asked rhetorically "what is the difference between Brussels...

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