EU Court of Auditors challenged by Lords and Kallas.
THE EUROPEAN Court of Auditors' 12th annual refusal to give
the European Union's (EU) accounts a complete positive assurance
has sparked criticism this year, with both EU anti-fraud Commissioner
Siim Kallas and--surprisingly--the UK House of Lords defending
Brussels' bookkeeping. The court said much EU spending in 2005 had
not involved proper invoices, correctly paid bills and the selection of
best value suppliers. Indeed, using random sampling methods, it found
errors, from delayed payments and incomplete documentation to outright
fraud in transactions affecting 66% of the Euro 115 billion EU budget.
Siim Kallas, EU anti-fraud Commissioner headed off the attacks, saying
Commission recovered more than Euro 2.17 billion in wrongly paid money
last year, and the Commission should be given credit for its diligence.
"Some of the court's criticism [was] unduly severe", he
said, noting member states actually spent 76% of EU money. His comments
have been echoed by a House of Lords European Union select committee
report, which called on the Court of Auditors to in future make clear it
accepts the reliability of EU accounts (which it always has), and that
its concerns are focused on the legality and regularity of the
transactions they report, many managed by national governments. It has
also called on the watchdog to give separate figures for outright fraud
and mishandled spending, such as choosing the wrong contractor, to avoid
suggesting EU institutions are rotten. And it suggested the court stop
relying on small samples of transactions to generate assumptions about
the reliability of EU accounts and spending.