They found that 4.8 per cent of the EU’s £117 billion budget in 2012 - £5.7 billion - was spent in “error”, on projects that were either tainted by fraud or ineligible for grants under Brussels’ rules.
EU bureaucrats were accused of “shambolic” mismanagement yesterday in the wake of the report, with Conservative MEPs suggesting it appeared as though Brussels thought it had a licence to 'Carry on Squandering’.
The EU spending watchdog found that supervision and control of Brussels spending was only
“partially effective in ensuring the legality and reularity of payments.
"All policy groups covering operational expenditure are materially affected by error,”
the auditors stated, as you can read here.
They concluded that:
“For these reasons it is the ECA’s opinion that payments underlying the accounts are materially affected by error.”
A British Government spokesman yesterday described the findings as “unacceptable and undermining the credibility of EU spending”.
“When countries across Europe are taking difficult decisions to tackle their deficits, Europe’s taxpayers need to have confidence that every effort is being made to improve the way EU spending is managed,” she said.
Included among the “errors” discovered by the auditors was a Polish landowner paid almost £80,000 a year to maintain 350 acres of grassland to help preserve uncut grassland for the protection of endangered bird species. In fact, the farmer had only met the agreed funding requirements for 14 per cent of the land and the payments.
The EU’s regional policy spending had an error rate of 6.8 per cent, or £2.4 billion, of the £34 billion spent in 2012. Most ineligible funding followed a failure to follow EU laws on public procurement and issuing of contracts.
The error rate in the “external relations, aid and enlargement” spending overseen by Baroness Ashton, the British Labour politician who acts as the the EU's foreign affairs commissioner, totalled 3.3 per cent, or £169 million of £5 billion in spending.
In one case, the European Commission paid £14 million for a programme to support female teachers in rural Bangladesh but over half the money was given with “no documentation”.
Philip Bradbourn MEP, the Conservative spokesman on EU budgetary control, described the latest audit as “another year, another story of lax monitoring and shambolic control”.
“If you found misappropriation and misspending on this scale in a commercial business — or in a properly-accountable public administration — there would be sackings all round. In Brussels, it’s ’Carry on Squandering’,” he said.
Vitor Caldeira, the president of the EU auditors, warned that poor financial planning by the European Commission “will put added pressure on EU cash flows and may increase the risk of error over the next few years”.
“Europe’s citizens have a right to know what their money is being spent on and whether it is being used properly,” he said.
More information can be found on the Daily Telegraph website here.