MEPs question choosing Cardiff for post

THE Government faces growing opposition to its nomination of Kevin Cardiff to the European Court of Auditors, with Fine Gael’s political grouping in Brussels questioning its choice of candidate.

The European People’s Party (EPP) — the largest group of the European Parliament — said questions must be asked about why the Government had chosen someone who “is not at all above doubt”.

Mr Cardiff, the outgoing secretary general of the Department of Finance, has come under fire for an accounting error which saw Ireland’s debt being over-estimated by €3.6 billion on his watch.

His appointment is subject to the approval of the European Parliament. Its budget control committee will grill him later this month.

Dr Ingeborg Grasser, co-ordinator of the 11 EPP members of the committee, said they will listen to what he has to say on November 23. “But what we have heard so far about him is not really a recommendation.”

The German MEP said: “The Irish Government wants to have a nice new job for him and this is not good enough.”

Finance Minister Michael Noonan last night reiterated that he stood behind the nomination.

“All the signals we have from the European Parliament is that they find him an acceptable candidate who is technically qualified for the job,” he said.

But Dr Grasser said Fine Gael’s membership of the EPP will not influence their decision. “What kind of sign would this be to give to European taxpayers?”

While the committee wants to be fair and “listen to him carefully”, Dr Grasser said the European Court of Auditors needs someone who would inspire confidence in European citizens.

The MEP said questions must be asked about why the Government selected someone who “has a certain history and is not above all doubt”.

Another committee member, Marta Andreasen, called on the Government to withdraw the nomination.

She said while it was not yet known if Mr Cardiff was responsible for the €3.6bn error “an auditor has to be beyond doubt”.

Ms Andreasen, a former chief accountant of the European Commission, said committee members have “concerns” not just about the error but Mr Cardiff’s involvement in “the history of the crisis in Ireland”.

Mr Cardiff was a key figure in the negotiation of the bank bailout and Ireland’s subsequent IMF bailout.

Ms Andreasen said the mandate of Eoin O’Shea, Ireland’s current member on the Court of Auditors, should be extended to avoid the controversy surrounding Mr Cardiff.

The 29 members of the committee will vote in secret on Mr Cardiff’s nomination. Their decision is usually reflected in the full European Parliament vote that will follow.

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