Court of Auditors report: Time for national governments to live up to their commitments

Sir Robert Atkins MEP, has said the ongoing inability for national governments to take urgent and rigorous action to achieve a clean opinion from the Court of Auditors is unacceptable, and the European Commission should now ‘name and shame’ those countries failing to live up to their commitments.

This year, for the first time, the court has been able to provide an unqualified (clean) opinion of the consolidated accounts, saying that they give a fair representation of the financial position of the EC. The court also gives a clear opinion on the legality and regularity of the EU’s administration. However, around 80 percent of all EU monies are spent by national governments and agencies, where the auditors are unable to account for it.

National governments entered into an agreement with the European Commission and MEPs during negotiations over the 2007-13 budget round, pledging to introduce a system of self-certification for the EU monies they spend. So far, only five countries have done so - including the UK.

Sir Robert has said the commission should name and shame the others, and even hold back on monies until those governments have fulfilled their pledge. Last month, Conservatives supported an unsuccessful effort to withhold five percent of the 2009 budget until the remaining countries met the requirements of the Court of Auditors.

Sir Robert said:

“The European Commission has put in place many of the foundations for finally ending this annual embarrassment, such as a new accounting system and a growing recognition that whistleblowers are to be encouraged; but there is a distinct lack of urgency from an unacceptably large number of national governments.

“This annual debacle is unacceptable and while EU governments know the action they must take to help end it, only a few have done so.

“Those governments failing to take responsibility for EU funds should be named and shamed. Should this lack of importance in the Council of Ministers continue, we must get a grip and withhold monies they need such as for Common Foreign and Security Policy actions.”

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