By Martin Banks - 18th April 2007
A senior MEP today called on member states to conduct their own accounting reports into their spending of EU finances.
Alde group leader Graham Watson says this is particularly necessary as member states spend 80 per cent of the EU budget, mostly through agricultural and structural funds.
His call comes in the wake of a reportn today by the National Audit Office (NAO) in the UK which notes that the European Court of Auditors last year once again failed to provide a positive statement of assurance on the state of the EU’s finances.
The NAO also reported that the value of financial irregularities in 2005-6 rose by five per cent to €1bn.
The increase came in the same year that European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso made it a strategic objective to get a positive statement on the EU’s finances.
However, Sir John Bourn, head of NAO, noted that it was important to distinguish between irregularities and fraud.
He added that the lack of a positive statement “does not indicate that EU expenditure is subject to an excessive level of fraud”.
Responding to the report, Watson, a UK deputy, said Sir John had “noted progress” on the state of the EU’s finances.
“For example, the report states quite clearly that the lack of a positive declaration is by no means evidence of fraud,” he said.
He said his group had “long called” for member states to take more responsibility in accounting for their spending of EU monies.
“The commission set itself set the goal of achieving a positive assessment from the court of auditors but this will only become possible once member states step up and accept their own share of responsibility.
“We are also calling on the court of auditors to provide us with a breakdown of financial management by department so we can pin down outstanding difficulties without giving the impression that the whole thing is tainted.”