The European Court of Auditors has today given the EU accounts a clean bill of health for the 8th year in a row. Both the revenue side and administrative expenditure are free from significant errors. The overall error rate in payments has declined for a second consecutive year, to 4.4% in 2014. The Court also, in its annual report on the implementation of the EU budget in 2014, stresses the progress made by the Commission to increase transparency and absorption concerning the management of EU funds.
Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission Vice-President in charge of Budget and Human Resources, said: "EU money belongs to our citizens and we owe it to them that every euro is well-spent. We share with the Court the view that new realities require new action. We at the Commission are working to align the budget with priorities, focus on results and strengthen controls."
Making sure EU funds are properly managed
Error rates do not equal fraud. They are mostly due to complex administrative procedures which have not been applied as expected. The European Commission has taken a number of measures to ensure that every euro from the EU budget is well spent.
1. EU–funded projects must be of added value to society. This is why we have set up a reinforced performance framework focusing on the results.
The Commission launched the initiative "EU budget focused on results" to make sure that EU resources are used effectively and are put to good use for the benefit of citizens.
The Commission will not just look at whether projects stick to the rules. A road to nowhere built according to the rules is still a road to nowhere. The Commission will assess the economic and social impact of EU-funded projects before they start and while they are running on the basis of clear performance indicators. Further financing will depend on results achieved. Better evaluation criteria and improved performance indicators will allow for more effective control of implementation.
The goal is for all EU-funded projects to demonstrate clear benefit and value for money.
2. While focusing on results, the Commission remains committed to simplifying existing rules. Meeting administrative requirements still costs beneficiaries too much time and effort. We have launched a simplification initiativeto make it easier for beneficiaries to access and use EU funds. This is also emphasised in the Commission work programme for 2016. As part of our drive towards simpler rules, the Commission earlier this year launched a High Level Group on Simplification for the beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment Funds.
3. Rigorous financial corrections and recoveries. When EU tax payers' money has been spent incorrectly, we take measures to get it back. Between 2009 and 2014 period, the average amount of financial corrections and recoveries was EUR 3.2 billion or 2.4% of the average amount of payments made from the EU budget. This is an effective way of protecting taxpayers' money in the context of multiannual spending.
4. Better control of EU spending by Member States, who manage 80% of the EU budget under the system of shared management. The Commission has developed incentives to encourage each Member State to further improve its management and control systems. The goal is to make them detect, report and correct irregularities before the EU audit - otherwise, they will lose the money they are entitled to.
To help Member States, the Commission shares good practices and guidance and organises training courses for Managing Authorities of the EU funds or seminars on error rates.