For the 21st year the EU Court of Auditors has given the EU’s accounts only a qualified statement of assurance, with the rate of error slightly down on last year’s report.
Conservative budgetary control spokesman in the European Parliament, Richard Ashworth MEP, said that after twenty years of inertia in tackling the problem, wholesale reform of the management of EU spending is long overdue.
Despite giving a clear opinion on the reliability of the accounts themselves, the auditors’ report found that the error level for the 2014 accounts was 4.4 percent, slightly down on last year’s 4.5 percent.
It noted that the level of error had been reduced due to corrective measures taken by both the European Commission and EU Member States, but it particularly identified higher error rates with so-called cost reimbursement schemes (5.5 percent), which see the EU reimbursing costs on the basis of declarations made by beneficiaries, rather than so-called entitlement programmes where payments are made on meeting conditions rather than reimbursing costs.
The European Court of Auditors checks whether the EU and the Member States have spent European money in line with a number of different European laws. Whilst the EU is often criticised for failing to spend its money correctly it is largely the Member States who fail to spend the money correctly and this is due to the complexity of European rules. In order to overcome this, Europe must reduce complexity of its rules.
Speaking after the President of the Court of Auditors presented his report to the parliament’s Budgetary Control committee, Richard Ashworth said: “The error rate is clearly unacceptably high and by 2014 there was clearly a sense of inertia in both EU governments and the European Commission to bring it down.
“The new European Commissioner is determined to bring this error rate down so that we can end this, incorrect, perception that the EU does not have its accounts ‘signed off’, which damages the EU’s credibility so badly.
“The Commissioner also recognises that to bring the error rate down we need to change how we work: we need to cut red tape and make it simpler for local governments, small and medium-sized enterprises and farmers to claim money that they need by legislating appropriately; or, we need to just cut this spending all together.
“The EU will shortly begin a review of its seven year budget framework for which the overriding priority must be delivering value for money by spending money in areas where the evidence tells us to spend it.
“The Court of Auditors can help us in that regard by delivering more performance reports and not just focus on compliance.”