Future European Union policies must be drawn up with the need for greater transparency and clarity in mind to secure better accounting practices, Economic Secretary Helen Liddell urged in the Commons last week.
Liddell said the most recent Court of Auditors report, certifying the accuracy but not the legality and regularity of EU payment transactions was ‘depressingly similar’ to previous years’ reports. She said the same themes recurred:
– failure to set objectives or monitor their achievement,
– bunching of payments towards the end of the year,
– substantial over-compensation of farmers and,
– overlapping programmes failing to reach intended beneficiaries.
Liddell said a drop in the level of errors on agricultural expenditure, from £319m in 1994 to £196m in 1996, indicated reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy, begun in 1992, were working.
She said: ‘We must focus on improved policy-making and clearer regulations’.
Policy instruments must ensure policy ‘is less vulnerable to fraud’.
Liddell backed calls from Tory and Labour MPs for the powers of the court to be strengthened, claiming at one point there was a legal basis for sanctions against member states appearing not to enforce the rules.
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