By Martin Banks - 10th November 2009
The errors are a consequence of too complex rules and regulations
The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has once again issued a negative opinion on the implementation of the EU budget by the commission and member states.
In its report on the 2008 EU budget, the court refused to sign off on how the money from the EU's 2008 budget had been spent.
While saying that the overall situation is improving, the ECA said that a number of spending areas in the budget are still "materially affected by errors".
It says these include the EU's policies on cohesion, research, energy and transport, external aid and enlargement and part of the agricultural programme.
It is the 15th time the ECA has issued a negative opinion on the implementation of the EU's budget.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday, the court's president Vitor Caldeira said, "Our message needs to be given due consideration by the commission when preparing a reformed budget."
He said particular attention needs to be directed at those areas where the court continues to report a high level of error.
"In many situations the errors are a consequence of too complex rules and regulations," he said.
"Simplification, therefore, remains a priority."
He added, "Overall, error rates appear to be decreasing but problems remain in some control systems."
Responding to the report, Pawel Samecki, regional policy commissioner, said he was "pleased" the report shows "we are achieving positive results and moving in the right direction."
He added, "The commission is working hard to help national authorities reduce the error rate in projects co-financed by the EU."
Italian ALDE deputy Luigi de Magistris, chairman of the budgetary control committee, said, “We are satisfied with the good results scored in the areas where the EU is directly in charge of its budget.
"But we regret that in the usual areas, such as cohesion and rural development, where member states share the management no improvements have emerged.
"As for the previous year, for instance, the court estimated that at least 11 per cent of the total amount reimbursed for cohesion projects, approximately €2,7bn, should not have been paid out.
"We should blame the member states that don't respect the rules and praise the virtuous ones.”
More reaction came from German deputy Jorgo Chatzimarkakis who reiterated the commission's legal responsibility for the management and supervision of the EU funds.
He said “If a large majority of member states remains reluctant to produce compulsory national declarations, and continue failing in setting up and conducting proper audit controls, the commission should start naming and shaming.
"Member states should be held accountable for the tax-payers money they manage in EU projects.”
“We encourage a simplification of the general regulations via the identification of best practices and their harmonisation among the member states as they remain the weakest link for clarity, transparency and efficiency of EU budget spent."
Dutch member Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said, "It is time for the EU to start focussing more on the effectiveness of its policies, namely assessing if the money spent reached its goals."