Commissioners must deflect public suspicion

Clearly frustrated by what it views as an intolerable situation in Europe,
the committee called for a parliamentary debate on the continuing failure of the
European Commission to have its accounts given a clean bill of health.

The demand for parliamentary time follows the European Court of Auditors’
decision that, for the 12th year running, it could not sign off the commission’s
accounts. MPs on the committee want the government to justify its ‘continued
optimism that matters are improving over there’.

This is a welcome addition to the debate on EC budgets and the control of its
spending. In fact, controversy has rarely been far away from EU spending. It
seems that every time someone takes a close look at European budgets there’s a
horror story that reveals fraud, overspending, faulty controls or poor
maintenance of systems.

In the past you would be forgiven for thinking that national governments –
the commission’s members – cared little about what happened to EU controls and
accountability. To drift into this kind of position is dangerous. Until the
national members start to pay attention to the accounting, there will be little
movement in Brussels to tighten things up.

The National Audit Office will push ahead with an audit of an annual
statement on EU expenditure in Britain and then submit its opinion to the UK
Parliament. This is a crucial step for the UK government to ensure that Brussels
is accountable for its spending. Without this the general public will always be
suspicious of commissioners if they neglect their ability to control the
funds.gavin hinks

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