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Yet again, errors in EU expenditure

November 6th, 2012 • For the eighteenth year in succession, the European Court of Auditors has withheld approval of EU’s accounts. The number of errors relating to expenditure detected by the Court of Auditors has grown from 3.7% to 3.9 % of the overall budget of €129.4 billion, amounting to some €5 billion. ‘While in the past the percentage of errors was at least falling a little year-on-year,’ says SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong, ‘it has risen since the present Commission came into office from 3.3% to 3.9%. Pumping moneys back and forth between national capitals and Brussels and back again, poor monitoring by the member states are leading to needless waste of taxpayers’ money. Even a relatively simple proposal such as the demand for an explanation of the accounts per member state has not been accepted by this Commission. That’s why the situation is continuing to deteriorate each year. We have to stop pumping money about and, for example, by introducing such national audit certification, improve the monitoring in the member states.´

For the first time the Commission tried in its accounts to demonstrate the added value provided by European subsidies. The Court of Auditors was not impressed, however, and noted drily that the report is vague, has little real content and is thus of limited value. ‘This is a general problem,’ says De Jong. ‘The Commission uses this business of European added value rather indiscriminately, but hardly ever if at all to any effect. The EU budget could also be severely reduced if the Commission would at last for once take a more critical look at all of the budget lines.’

Most errors are made in relation to expenditure on rural development, environment, fisheries and health, where some 7.7% of cases are affected by mistakes. Most of this spending involved money redistributed by the member states and in more than half of cases the Court of Auditors stated that the national authorities had enough information to enable them to reject the spending, though this did not happen. The Netherlands is on that count an exception in voluntarily supplying a national audit certificate on expenditure. ‘In view of the growing number of errors,’ says De Jong, ‘the enormous spending cuts which the member states under pressure from the EU have carried out and the disappointing eighteen years in succession in which the annual accounts have been refused approval, the EU is hardly in a position to look critically at expenditure, which is an extremely depressing observation.’

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