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October 25, 2006

On the EU Accounts

Interesting little comment pops up on a recent post about the EU accounts and the auditor's refusal to sign off on them. The advice is to go and look at the (ahem) BBC page for a balanced (ahem) view.

Which is, in fact, a sad apology for a piece of propagandizing obfuscation. The errors are all because the auditors use sampling techniques: well, yes, that's what auditors do. It's what the Lancet report used in Iraq too: sampling is indeed how you find out what is going on in large and complex situations.

One of its chief arguments is that the auditors set the bar at a level far higher than any national government could achieve.

And far below the levels that are routinely expected from private and public companies. This is an argument against the general standards of governmental accounting, not anything else. Accruals would be an interesting thing to add to government accounts for example, the present value of future promises even?

Still, given that this comment came from someone purportedly inside the EU system: the email was


I thought it would be interesting to write back to this person. They are, from that address, working directly for the Commission in Brussels. The question I asked?

Does the EU use double entry book keeping yet?

You might recall that this was one of the major points made by Marta Andreassen before she was hung out to dry by Kinnock. Imagine my surprise therefore when this happened:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:


Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 12): 550 5.7.1 Message rejected.

Now I don't know what that means. Some technical failure somewhere along the line? Or are TEBAF Margot's helots working as sock puppets now?

October 25, 2006 in European Union | Permalink


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Tracked on Oct 25, 2006 12:49:44 PM


The guy probably entered a fake email address just in case anyone tried to get in touch with any 'difficult' questions. Either that, or he spelled his own name incorrectly. I leave it to you to decide which is the more likely.

Posted by: Jonathan | Oct 25, 2006 10:27:26 AM

Alternatively, Timmy's email domain is blocked by the EU. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

Tim adds: gmail?

Posted by: sanbikinoriaon | Oct 25, 2006 11:09:52 AM

try this from: http://osha.europa.eu/press_room/050919_Orlando/view?searchterm=kosarczyn

Press enquiries:
Marek Kosarczyn, Press Officer, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, email: kosarczyn@osha.eu.int, tel: +34 94 479 43 86.

Posted by: Judge | Oct 25, 2006 12:28:59 PM

From a technical POV, Hotmail and Yahoo are frequently blocked domains because they are perceived as dodgy. It is possible that gMail might be blocked too.

Hwoever, I think it more likely the email address is wrong.

Posted by: John | Oct 25, 2006 12:46:38 PM

actually our mail servers are being a pain in the butt at the moment so lots of mails are being blocked (including from my own sister) - no conspiracy...
Marek works in DG Budget.
You might like to know Margot has made a new post on this subject in her blog:

Posted by: Joe | Oct 25, 2006 2:10:31 PM

"Does the EU use double-entry bookkeeping yet?"

I think so - anyway, by reports the Medicis invented double-entry booking in the 12th century so the news has probably percolated through to Brussels:

Perhaps of greater interest is that Marta Andreasen, formerly chief accounting officer of the EU Commission, was acclaimed personality of the year by Accountancy Age in 2003 for her refusal to sign off the EU accounts:

She had a few pertinent comments to make about Commissioner Kinnock in the reported interview.

Posted by: Bob B | Oct 25, 2006 3:51:26 PM


my e-mail address is correct, I don't know why I did not receive your message;
1. Anyway, coming back to your question: yes, the Commission does use (and has always used) double-entry book-keeping (if we dind't, I am sure the Court of Auditors would have noticed it in its report, wouldn't they?

2. You mention accrual accounting - good point - the Commission is one of the few public entities which use accrual accounting

3. You mention private companies' accounting standards - well, private companies are only audited for their books (the EU books are 'reliable', the Court of auditors said); they are not audited for the 'underlying transactions', so your comparison is a bit irrelevant

Have a nice day

Tim adds: That's really rather interesting. Because your previous Cheif Accountant doesn't seem to think so.

Posted by: mk | Oct 25, 2006 4:17:01 PM

SMTP error 550 means that his mailserver doesn't think that his email address exists on it or it is rejecting it for "policy reasons". You are clearly on the list of people with whom mere contact for a Commission employee is likely to irrevocably sour them to the federalist European dream.

Either that or, as you hinted, they are as efficient at running mailservers as they are at everything else. Normal "I am too busy, come back later" errors should come from the 421, 450, 451 ish codes. Could be that the connection between their gateway systems and the internal mail estate is in the same sort of condition as their accounts :(


Posted by: Surreptitious Evil | Oct 25, 2006 7:33:13 PM