Auditors give EU accounts their 12th qualification

The European Union’s (EU) financial watchdog, the Court of Auditors, has for
the 12th year running refused to give the EU accounts a complete positive

The court said much EU spending in 2005 had not involved proper invoices,
correctly paid bills and the selection of best-value suppliers.

Indeed, using random sampling methods, it found errors – from delayed
payments and incomplete documentation to outright fraud in transactions –
affecting 66% of the 115bn euro EU budget.

However, overstated assets were valued at 314m euros, just 0.5% of the EU’s
net assets.

In a nuanced decision, the court did find the way the EU recorded its
accounts satisfactory: books ‘present fairly, in all material respects the
financial position,’ it said

The Court also said a newly introduced system for some agricultural payments
had reduced abuse to an acceptable level of risk.

However, the spending of regional aid and research was attacked as lax, with
the court saying there was insufficient control.

Siim Kallas, EU anti-fraud commissioner tried to head off the criticism
yesterday in a pre-emptive attack, saying the Commission recovered more than
2.17bn euros in wrongly paid money last year, and the Commission should be given
credit for its diligence.

‘Some of the court’s criticism [was] unduly severe’, he said, noting member
states actually spent 76% of EU money.

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