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"Single audit" of cohesion spending: significant progress achieved since 2007, but Commission and national audit bodies must work better, say EU auditors

Court of Auditors - ECA/13/47   18/12/2013

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Luxembourg, 18 December 2013

"Single audit" of cohesion spending: significant progress achieved since 2007, but Commission and national audit bodies must work better, say EU auditors

According to a new report published by the European Court of Auditors today, the European Commission faces challenges to its reliance on the results of audits carried out by Member States of EU regional funds. The situation may cause the Commission, in its reporting to the European Parliament and the Council, to underestimate the problems and not appropriately assess what is needed to achieve a clean audit opinion in this policy area.

Responsibility for checking regional spending is shared by the Commission and the Member States. Since 2007 the Commission has increasingly relied on information provided by national audit bodies in order to avoid double checking and reduce the overall costs of control.

The Court estimates that around € 860 million has been spent on auditing EU regional policy by Member States during the period 2007 to 2013. This corresponds to 0.2 % of the total regional policy budget.

According to Dr Harald Noack, Member of the European Court of Auditors, “Member States and the Commission have made significant efforts to establish a better system for auditing regional spending, and a lot of progress has been made since 2007. However, the Commission must make sure that all national auditors carry out their checks properly and fully report on them to the Commission.

The Court recommends that the Commission adopt a prudent approach in relying on Member States’ information on audits and financial corrections, and that it continue to provide methodological support and guidance to national audit bodies. The Commission should also introduce a system of sanctions against audit bodies that repeatedly under-report problems, and should propose arrangements to share with Member States the costs of auditing the EU’s regional spending.

Note to the editor:

Regional policy budget: EU financial support in the area of regional policy is granted through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF). Taken together, the three funds had a total budget (EU and national public and private funding) of 491 billion euro for the 2007-2013 period. The Commission approves multiannual programmes on the basis of Member States’ proposals. A total of 434 programmes had been approved for the 2007-2013 period (317 under the ERDF/CF and 117 under the ESF) by the end of 2012.

‘Single audit’ model: In the context of the European Union budget, the term ‘single audit’ refers to a system of internal control and audit which is based on the idea that each level of control builds on the preceding one. ’Single audit’ aims at preventing the duplication of control work and reducing the overall cost of control and audit activities at the level of the Member States and the Commission. It also aims at decreasing the administrative burden on auditees. In its Opinion No 2/2004, the Court set out a number of general principles for internal control systems to operate in accordance with the ‘single audit’ model. The Court, as the external auditor of the EU, is not part of the Commission’s ‘single audit’ system.

Audit approach and evidence collection: Through this audit, the Court analysed the extent to which the Commission is able to rely, in the area of regional policy, on the work of national audit authorities for its own assurance, and took stock of the Commission’s implementation of the ‘single audit’ model up to the end of 2012. In particular, the Court examined whether the Commission has made proper use of the information provided by national audit authorities and ensured a consistent audit approach through its guidance and support of audit authorities. The Court also analysed the costs of the reinforced audit arrangements introduced in the 2007-2013 programming period.


Aidas Palubinskas

Press Officer European Court of Auditors

Desk: +352 4398 45410 Mobile: +352 621 552224 Twitter: @EUAuditorsECA

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