ECA says control measures seem to be producing results
By Isabelle Smets | Friday 27 April 2012
Measures adopted by the European Commission to correct shortcomings in the management and control of Structural Funds seem to be producing results, even if things are not yet perfect, according to the EU Court of Auditors. A special report, published on 26 April
(1) recognises that the Commission takes appropriate corrective actions when shortcomings are identified. However, it also states that the process to implementation is lengthy (an average of 30 months between the detection of deficiencies and implementation of corrective measures) and that the Commission could be stricter in terms of the assurances it obtains from states on corrective action.
The court’s audit was carried out mainly on the basis of a review of 40 programmes – a total budget of €43.109 million – for which major management and control deficiencies had been identified. Its conclusion was that in 90% of cases, the corrective actions requested by the Commission constituted an appropriate response to the problems identified. On the other hand, the court hints that the Commission may be placing too much confidence in states with respect to the effectiveness of financial corrections. “The court considers that in 67% of the cases in the sample, the assurance level obtained was high. For the remaining cases (33%) there were shortcomings reducing the assurance level,” reads the report.
When its speaks of shortcomings, the court refers, for example, to a lack of information on the exhaustiveness of the financial corrections applied, justification of the amount of the corrections or insufficient controls by the national auditors. “In some cases the scope was not sufficient but this was not challenged by the Commission,” notes the court.
The Court of Auditors’ reports regularly signal high rates of error in payments made by the Commission to states in the framework of the EU Structural Funds, in connection with expenditure eligibility, for instance. Controls are therefore extremely important. In 2008, in the wake of a very critical report by the Court of Auditors on the 2006 financial year, the Commission adopted an action plan to improve supervision of states.
In its recommendations, the court suggests that the Commission give higher priority to its audit work on national audit authorities to ensure that they produce robust error rates in their programmes. It also recommends a reduction in the duration of the administrative procedure from identification of deficiencies to implementation of corrective actions.(1) Special report 2012/3: ‘Structural Funds: Did the Commission successfully deal with deficiencies identified in the member states’ management and control systems?’