A letter from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) to the leaders of the EU, published today, criticises the EU Commission’s Anti-Corruption report as overly descriptive, offering little analysis and no substantive findings, relying instead on the results of corruption perception polls, whose usefulness is limited.
“At first glance, the outcome of the Commission’s report seems alarming. But the findings of the report are primarily based on the perceptions of citizens and companies,” stated Mr Alex Brenninkmeijer, the ECA Member responsible for the analysis, “Reality may well be different. And it is unfortunate that the Commission excluded EU institutions and bodies from its analysis.”
The EU auditors said that corruption and fraud erode trust in public institutions and democracy, and that they also undermine the functioning of EU’s internal market. The ECA welcomes the Commission’s anti-corruption report as a promising start to a useful discussion. The independent audit institution encourages such a discussion, because it is an important contribution to accountability of public institutions, both national and EU level, towards EU citizens. Enhancing good governance by improving transparency and accountability – in particular in the field of anti-corruption measures – is essential for gaining public trust in public institutions. A policy of transparency and accountability is fundamentally necessary for these institutions to carry out their duties properly, and ensure the integrity of their staff. Transparency and integrity are key conditions for fighting fraud.
In this, its first anti-corruption report, the Commission does not provide a link to the overall issue of fraud and corruption in the EU and its Member States. The Commission does, however, provide arguments for its thematic focus on public procurement. Public procurement is an area with a high impact on the error rate estimated by the ECA and therefore considered as a high risk area. The Court’s estimate of the error rate is not a measure of fraud or corruption. Public procurement errors can mean that the objectives of public procurement rules – promoting fair competition and ensuring that contracts are awarded to the best qualified bidder – have not always been achieved. The ECA reports any suspected cases of fraud and corruption among these failures to OLAF which has investigative powers.
The European Court of Auditors’ View on the Commission’s Report on Anti-Corruption Measures