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Proportion of misspent EU funds falling

Posted in 04 October 2018

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The latest annual report of EU finance auditors has shown that the bloc's budget misspending is steadily decreasing. Irregularities and fraud attempts are still in place, but accountability pressures are rising.

The level of irregularities in EU budget spending dropped again throughout 2017,the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said in its latest annual report on Thursday.

The ECA is an independent audit institution of the European Union, with its regular reports being an essential element of the bloc's accountability chain.

The auditors said EU spending totaled €137.4 billion ($157.7 billion), or around €270 for every citizen in the 28-member bloc. This amounted to just 0.9 percent of EU gross national income and represented roughly 2 percent of total public spending in member states.

ECA's 2017 report said it found 13 instances of suspected fraud out of some 700 transactions audited last year. It said the cases were forwarded to the EU's anti-fraud office, OLAF.

Misspending closely monitored

The survey emphasized that overall, the level of irregularities in EU spending reached 2.4 percent in 2017, down from 3.1 percent in 2016 and 3.8 percent in 2015.

It noted that sufficient information was available from member states to prevent or detect and correct a significant proportion of errors, for example in rural development payments.

Misspending was generally defined as financial resources not allocated in compliance with EU rules - be it as a result of accounting mistakes or funds going toward something other than what they were intended for.

Be more realistic

The report said that "problems remain in particular where payments from the EU budget are made to beneficiaries based on their declarations of costs previously incurred." This often applied to rural development funds, research projects and training schemes, ECA officials added.

ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne warned that in future the EU had to be more realistic about what it could achieve with the available resources.

"The EU should not make promises, if it cannot deliver," he said in a statement.