Auditors provide critical assessment of EU accounts

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The president of the European Court of Auditors, Vitor Caldeira, has said that the EU's accounts cannot be given a clean bill of health for the 19th year in row.

Presenting the Court's annual report to the Budgetary Control Committee on 5 November 2013, he said the error rate for EU budget spending had increased from 3.9% to 4.8%, the third year in a row that there has been an increase.

He said that rural development, the environment and fisheries saw the highest error rate, followed by regional policy, energy and transport.

However, Mr Caldeira noted that "it is not always the actors that are to be blamed, sometimes it is the script that they are given," saying that the whole system of accounting was to blame rather than individual institutions.

He said the new financial framework - due to begin in 2014 - should usher in a "new culture of performance" to try and clamp down on budgetary errors.

Anti-fraud Commissioner Algirdas Semeta said he welcomed the Court's findings that there were no "serious errors", but said he was "concerned" that the error rate had increased.

He said the Commission had launched an "ambitious simplification procedure" pointing out that in areas where this had been trialled, such as in some areas of European Social Fund spending, there had been no budgetary errors.

British Conservative MEP Marta Andreasen, a former Chief Accountant of the European Commission, said the Court of Auditors should describe the EU's budget as "fraudulent".

She stated: "If you fail to follow procurement rules and fail to get refunds for ineligible costs, then is my country this is called fraud."

The ECA, which is a formal institution of the European Union, was established in 1975 and audits the accounts of the EU institutions.

It is based in Luxembourg, and has been presided over by Mr Caldeira since 2008.

It is made up of 28 members - one from each EU country.

In 2012 the EU spent €138.6bn, of which approximately 80% was jointly managed by the Commission and the member states.

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The European Parliament's disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations can be found here.

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