SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has this week published a guide on the auditing processes of the European Union following the widespread and inaccurate coverage that Europe's accounts have 'not been signed off'.
The document exposes the longstanding myth, pointing out that:
- the EU accounts have been signed off for many years now
- fraud has been identified in only 0.2% of all EU funds
- the EU has a solid track record of recovering incorrectly paid amounts
- errors often occur at Member State level and more must be done to address this
The paper also analyses the recent press coverage linking the EU's accounts with the UK's budget contributions.
Commenting, Alyn said:
"It's important that the EU continues to tighten its auditing processes, but to suggest the accounts have not been signed off is utterly misleading - they've been signed off many years now and the degree of fraud detected was less than 0.2%.
"We all have a duty to scrutinise and ensure taxpayer's money is always put to good use but to link the UK's refusal to pay its budget contributions to the EU's accounts smacks of sheer opportunism.
"Even the House of Lords, of all places, has acknowledged that errors in the procurement process do not constitute fraud, and that such errors are common across governments.
"In reality the EU's audit processes are more robust than those of the UK Government. It was Audit General Sir John Bourn who stated that if the European Court of Auditors applied the same standards to the UK, the UK Government’s budgets would not have been signed off.
"More work must also be done at Member State level to detect and correct errors before project funding is received from the EU. As the Commissioner for Audit, Algirdas Semeta, stated, much of the work on fraud that remains to be done is now within the realms of the member states.
"I hope this guide will address some of the longstanding myths on the EU's accounts and contribute to the debate on how to improve scrutiny and detect fraud not just in Brussels but across the EU". [ENDS]
Alyn's EU Accounts Guide is available to download as a PDF.
The full report ECA Annual Report on the Implementation of the Budget 2013 (published 2014) is available to download as a PDF.