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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.
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Author:Nuthall, Keith
Publication:International News
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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