Court of Auditors' Annual Report 'much too rose-coloured'

28 September 2017

Court of Auditors' Annual Report 'much too rose-coloured'

The European Court of Auditors has this year for the first time offered no reproof in its judgment of the EU's accounts. In an initial reaction, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong says he has his doubts. “Fewer mistakes is of course good news,” says De Jong, “but I'm not convinced. I have the idea that the Court of Auditors has done everything it can to make its report as rose-coloured as possible. What other conclusion can you draw when the European Commission itself in its own Annual Report is more critical than the Auditors? That's never happened before and it seems that the Court of Auditors has deliberately sought to keep the percentage of errors as low as possible.

De Jong has criticisms of, amongst other things, the calculation of the error percentage as 3.1%, a figure that last year stood at 3.8%. “In a footnote the Auditors admit that the real proportion would be 5.1%, if they had taken into account the €2.5 billion in payments made by the Commission which were in conflict with European legislation. Last year the Court of Auditors still saw this as a problem, but this year the Auditors found a brief footnote sufficient.”

It's also striking that for the first time in history the Commission is itself more critical than the Court of Auditors. “The Commission announced that this year 26% of payments were placed under reserve, a figure that was only 21% last year,” says De Jong. “This concerns payments which still have to be investigated to see whether they are correct. So it's odd that this year's percentage is so much lower. More specifically, you can see this when it comes to direct support from the Agricultural Fund, which the Court of Auditors says has seen its error percentage fall from 2.2% to 1.7%. Yet the Commission writes that the rise in the number of reserves can be blamed mainly on aid from the Agricultural Fund, due to the regulations having become more complicated. So that points to more rather than fewer errors compared to the previous year. On the receipts side too the Court of Auditors finds not a single error, while the Commission states that in connection with a case of fraud involving the customs duties that the UK has to deduct, a general reserve has had to be made. It’s great that the Commission is being transparent in regard to this, but I can’t find anything about it in the Court of Auditors’ Annual Report.”

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