The majority of payments made by the EU in 2007 were regular, according to a report published on 10 November. But some members of the European Parliament have expressed ‘acute disappointment’ after auditors failed to sign off the EU accounts for the fourteenth consecutive year, identifying errors in two to five percent of payments made to the bloc’s member states.
The European Court of Auditors report for 2007, published on 10 November, asserts that “errors are still too frequent in some areas”.
Indeed, the report’s opinion on EU payments “remains broadly similar to last year,” when auditors also failed to approve the figures for 2006 (EURACTIV 14/11/07).
Nevertheless, the 2007 report finds that for most budget areas, including research grants and humanitarian aid, “between 95% and 98% of payments are error-free”.
As in previous years, the report shows that the highest rates of error lie in regional and cohesion policy spending, which is managed by national authorities. Errors here account for 42bn euro, with the court estimating that “at least 11% of the value of reimbursed costs should not have been paid out”.
Administration and Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas responded by saying that the EU executive would redouble its efforts to recover funding money where necessary. Indeed, this year the Commission had imposed financial corrections on member states to the tune of 843m euro, he announced. He expects another 1.5bn euro to be recovered by March 2009.
“The Commission shall not hesitate to take a tough stance and suspend payments until all member states implement adequate corrective measures. And where errors have a financial impact, we shall recover the money,” Kallas said.
Meanwhile, parliamentarians said they were concerned by the report’s findings. “It is disappointing to note that the Court of Auditors is still not able to validate the execution of payments, in particular concerning structural funds,” said Dutch liberal MEP Jan Mulder, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) coordinator in Parliament’s budgetary control committee.
“The national declarations that are presented by member states on the Community funds they manage are not good enough,” Mulder lamented, welcoming an announcement by the Commission that it would seek an inter-institutional agreement on “the concept of tolerable risk of error” for EU-funded programmes.
The Court of Auditors report provides a basis for the 2007 budgetary discharge procedure between the European Parliament and the Council. MEPs are set to vote on the discharge in April 2009.