SNP MEP On EU Annual Accounts Failure

13 November 2007
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith has today expressed his concernsover the continuing failure of the EU's accounts to be given a clean bill of health and has called for an overhaul of Europe's budgetary andaccounting procedures.

The EU's Court of Auditors presented its annual report for the implementation of the EU's budget for the 2006 financial year to the European Parliament's powerful budgetary control committee yesterday evening (Monday).

Its President, Herbert Weber, gave a red card to theEU's spending accounts for the 13th year in a row. Once again much of the auditors' criticism is aimed at the member states who are responsible for managing 80% of the EU's budget. Here, the auditors found a "high level of error".

While the findings also show failings on the part of the European Commission in maintaining effective supervision of spending on large infrastructure projects there have been some improvements from last year.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Mr Smith said:

"Another November, another Court of Auditors report, another failure to clear the EU's accounts. This is just not good enough, this annual farce has to end. Every year we go through this and every year its the same old story. This annual saga, which only adds fuel to the fodder for the anti-Europeans in their misrepresentation of the EU as being riddled with fraud, corruption and incompetence, cannot continue any longer.

"Even the head of the UK's National Audit Office, John Bourn, in evidence to the House of Lords EU Select Committee last year, has said that if he was operating under the same accounting procedures as the EU he wouldn't be able to pass the UK's accounts. This does nothing to help the EU. And it does nothing to help us as MEPs to hold the EU to account.

"While the Court once again found no evidence of deliberate wrong doing or mishandling, with a lot of errors being technical in nature, it still remains the case that many of the problems with the EU's budget lie closer to home with the national governments, not the European institutions. In 2006 the member states were responsible for spending and managing £75 billion of European monies.

"If we are to ensure taxpayers' money is spent wisely and which is properly managed and accounted for across the EU then there needs to be a fundamental reform of Europe's budgetary and accounting systems, with increased transparency of the EU's accounts and in the way the EU administers funding. Right now we have a system where the EU accounting standards are so high that they can't be met.

"While some progress has been made in strengthening the financial management of EU spending, if MEPs are to have full confidence in the EU's accounts then we need to see the member states also taking responsibility for rectifying these persistent accounting problems and not just the EU institutions. When signing off the 2005 accounts MEPs voted in support of member states producing their own national statements of assurance. So far, only a handful of member states, including the UK, are actually doing this.

"I'd like to see each member state government audit their own spending of European monies by their own national audit office,scrutinised by domestic parliamentarians back home and signed off by the government.

"Only by that route might we be able to restore publicconfidence and trust in the financial probity of EU expenditure".