Commission report on corruption a good start, but lacks information required to substantiate anti-fraud and anti-corruption policy – EU Auditors
A letter from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) to the leaders of the EU, published today, criticises the EU Commission’s Anti-Corruption report as overly descriptive, offering little analysis and no substantive findings, relying instead on the results of corruption perception polls, whose usefulness is limited.
“At first glance, the outcome of the Commission’s report seems alarming. But the findings of the report are primarily based on the perceptions of citizens and companies,” stated Mr Alex Brenninkmeijer, the ECA Member responsible for the analysis, “Reality may well be different. And it is unfortunate that the Commission excluded EU institutions and bodies from its analysis.”
The EU auditors said that corruption and fraud erode trust in public institutions and democracy, and that they also undermine the functioning of EU’s internal market. The ECA welcomes the Commission’s anti-corruption report as a promising start to a useful discussion. The independent audit institution encourages such a discussion, because it is an important contribution to accountability of public institutions, both national and EU level, towards EU citizens. Enhancing good governance by improving transparency and accountability – in particular in the field of anti-corruption measures – is essential for gaining public trust in public institutions. A policy of transparency and accountability is fundamentally necessary for these institutions to carry out their duties properly, and ensure the integrity of their staff. Transparency and integrity are key conditions for fighting fraud and corruption.
The ECA considers that thorough timely and accurate data and independent evaluations, at EU and Member State level, needs to be further developed in order to identify: (1) the actual risk areas; (2) reasons why corruption occurs and; (3) which measures need to be taken, and which have proved to be effective. Basing anti-corruption measures on perceptions instead of the actual occurrence of corruption brings with it the risk that these measures might be unnecessarily burdensome and fail to address the real causes for corruption.
The full text of the letter can be found on http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/NewsItem.aspx?nid=4775
Notes to the editors:
The EU anti-corruption mechanism of 2011, which is based upon Article 83 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, obliges the EU Commission to produce a report on combating corruption every second year, starting in 2013.
The Commission’s report describes trends and developments in corruption, and identifies a number of successful anti-corruption measures which are being used in Member States. In doing so, the report covers a wide range of issues and specific areas where corruption is a particular risk. However, the report is mainly of a descriptive nature. It is based on the outcomes of round tables, Euro barometer information and a review of anti-corruption measures. It lacks information on concrete findings.
In this, its first anti-corruption report, the Commission does not provide a link to the overall issue of fraud and corruption in the EU and its Member States. The Commission does, however, provide arguments for its thematic focus on public procurement. Public procurement is an area with a high impact on the error rate estimated by the ECA and therefore considered as a high risk area. The Court’s estimate of the error rate is not a measure of fraud or corruption. Public procurement errors can mean that the objectives of public procurement rules – promoting fair competition and ensuring that contracts are awarded to the best qualified bidder – have not always been achieved. The ECA reports any suspected cases of fraud and corruption among these failures to OLAF which has investigative powers.
The anti-corruption report presented by the Commission evaluates the achievements of national initiatives. No convincing explanation is provided for why the EU institutions and bodies are excluded from the analysis. However, it is apparent from the report itself and from the feedback it received from inter alia the European Ombudsman and debate in the European Parliament that the omission of EU institutions and bodies from the Report was unfortunate.
The EU Commission’s anti-corruption report can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/corruption/anti-corruption-report/index_en.htm