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Brussels, 9 November 2010

Clean bill of health for EU accounts; auditors find fewer errors in payments

For the third year running EU's annual accounts have received a clean bill of health from its external auditors. As for payments, the overall evaluation improves visibly, with a significant drop in errors found in aid to EU's regions.

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-Fraud and Audit, said: "In the current economic climate, citizens need particular reassurance that EU funds are being efficiently managed and effectively spent. This is a top priority for the Commission. We can be pleased with the improvements in EU financial management, which are recognised today by the Court of Auditors. But there is always more that can be done, and the Commission will continue its intense efforts to ensure that EU funds are properly accounted for and well spent."

Error rates dropping

The verdict is reassuring. The accounts were found to be 'true and fair', meaning a clean bill of health. As for payments, the Commission managed for the first time to bring down the overall error rate for EU spending below 5%. This means at least 95% of total payments made in 2009 were correct.

For cohesion expenditure (i.e. aid to EU regions and to boost employment), the Commission welcomes the Court's acknowledgement of the visible progress in this area, and will step up efforts to consolidate the improvements made.

In agriculture, the situation has been stable over recent years, with the level of error oscillating around the 'clean bill of health' threshold of 2%. A very good result given the complexity and scope of farm subsidies, paid directly to millions of farmers across Europe.

EU budget better protected

The value of funds clawed back from projects where errors were found, or from national authorities responsible, continued to grow – a sign of Commission determination to protect the EU budget in times of financial austerity. Recoveries and financial corrections confirmed or decided in 2009 rose to EUR 3.3 billion, compared to EUR 2.9 billion in 2008. The Commission will continue to encourage member states to improve their reporting on national recoveries made.

Preventive measures

On the preventive side, the Commission is stepping up efforts to simplify, where possible, its financial rules, a measure advocated by the auditors. A new proposal setting up simpler procedures for EU grants and contracts has been tabled this year and is now with the European Parliament.

The transparency of payments is another way to improve the quality of EU spending. The Commission's own online database accessible at now provides details of more than 114 thousand grants and contracts awarded directly by the European Commission, as well as links to national sites providing details of beneficiaries of farm subsidies and regional aid grants.

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