Conservatives once again stand up for zero tolerance on waste and fraud

Meanwhile Labour and Lib Dems vote to approve accounts the Court of Auditors cannot

Strasbourg, April 26 2007 — Only through a zero tolerance approach to fraud, waste and mismanagement will the EU’s efforts to restore confidence in budgetary control be successful, Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament, Sir Robert Atkins MEP, said today.

Sir Robert was speaking as the Parliament voted to approve the European Commission’s accounts, despite the fact that the Court of Auditors has been unable to give a positive statement of account for the Commission’s books for the past 12 years.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of the 2005 budgetary discharge with regards to the Commission, the Parliament and the Council despite no official assurance for more than a decade.

Conservative MEPs, determined the situation should be addressed urgently, voted against, but Sir Robert said there are signs the Commission appreciates the need for fundamental change to restore public confidence.

He said:

“Yet again, the Court of Auditors has not been able to approve the EU’s books. This needs to be tackled urgently and vigorously. Conservative MEPs are determined to keep pushing the Commission towards the kind of root-and-branch reform that we have long been calling for.

“There seems to be a growing recognition that whistleblowers who highlight abuses of the system should be positively encouraged to come forward, and protected when they do. Whistleblowers must be treated fairly and be seen to be treated fairly. We were among the first to champion this idea.

“There should be zero tolerance of waste, fraud and mismanagement. The Commission has political responsibility and we will subject the budgetary control process to rigorous scrutiny.

“But it is not only the Commission that has responsibility for accounting. Around 80 per cent of EU money is actually spent in the Member States. Parliament’s report on the Commission’s budget highlights the need for greater controls and coordination at a national level. Member States need to take responsibility for these funds through national management declarations.”

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