SNP MEP Meets EU Auditors on Scottish projects

15 March 2005
"I'm as confident as ever that Scotland can be proud of our EU projects."

SNP MEP Alyn Smith has met with the auditors of the Scottish Projects highlighted in a blaze of negative publicity some months ago. Mr Smith sought the meeting to gain the actual facts of the audit and to seek assurances regarding the future progress of the audit.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Smith said:

"I now have a better understanding of the audit process, and I remain confident that Scotland can be proud of the management of our EU funded projects. I was heartened to hear from the auditors that Scots projects demonstrate an innovation and enthusiasm that does us credit.

All Scots projects have been awarded the full 4% performance reserve granted to exceptional projects. The mid term review of the Highlands and Islands projects stressed the projects have a "robust performance" and the annual reports of the partnerships are consistently of good quality. I'm pleased that the Commission officials were so willing to meet with me, as they were as saddened as I was that an interim report on an ongoing audit process had been leaked to the press. I remain curious who leaked it, but perhaps we will never know. I will continue to maintain a keen eye on the roll out of the audit process. "

The content of the meeting was, at the request of the Commission, confidential to ensure a free exchange of views and given that it covered an ongoing audit process did not discuss the substance of the individual audit cases.

Mr Smith said:

"The audit must first be put in context. The EU Commission is under a duty to ensure that the taxpayer gains best value from EU funded projects. A number of other countries across the EU are going through exactly the same process and it is after all designed to ensure best value and sound management, nobody would possibly disagree with that."

"The report, which was leaked into the public domain, contained the initial findings in respect of an audit of a number of projects chosen at random in order to identify whether there were any problems across the entire range of projects carried out in the 1994-1999 period. For a variety of reasons, some issues were raised though many of the questions related to incomplete information therefore the entire spend was marked in the draft report as at risk of clawback. As the information is provided, then the sums in question can be more realistically assessed."

"The second stage audit is ongoing now, and covers some 40 projects. This report will be produced by around the end of May, and will be sent to the Scottish Executive. This report will be confidential, as the last one should have been."