The European Court of Auditors performs its audits in accordance with the international auditing standards and code of ethics, which it applies to the specific EU context. These standards help ensure the quality and professionalism of the ECA’s work, as well as its efficiency. The ECA contributes to the development of the standards through its international cooperation.
The statement of assurance audits
The statement of assurance (sometimes referred to as the ‘DAS’ from the French “déclaration d’assurance”) is an annual financial and compliance audit exercise where the ECA audits the reliability of the EU’s accounts and the regularity of the transactions underlying them. The findings and conclusions are published in the ECA’s annual reports. The audit involves testing a random sample of transactions and evaluating supervisory and control systems to determine whether revenue and payments are calculated correctly and comply with the legal and regulatory framework. Detailed testing takes place across all spending schemes and Member States, and is used to provide specific assessments of the different areas of the EU budget. Other sources of evidence, such as the work of other auditors, are also used to support the conclusions.
ECA performance audits address the quality of EU revenue or spending, and whether the principles of sound financial management have been applied . They involve an examination of programmes, operations, management systems and procedures of bodies and institutions that manage EU funds, to assess whether they are achieving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of those resources. The ECA’s performance audits cover a wide range of topics with a particular focus on issues related to growth and jobs, European added value, management of public finances, the environment and climate action. Performance audits results are set out in special reports.
Auditing performance involves assessing different aspects of the public intervention process, including inputs (financial, human, material, organisational or regulatory means needed for the implementation of the programme), outputs (the deliverables of the programme), results (the immediate effects of the programme on direct addressees or recipients) and impacts (long-term changes in society that are attributable to the EU’s action).
The ECA conducts its audits in accordance with ISSAIs, the international standards on auditing issued by INTOSAI, the international organisation of supreme audit institutions worldwide. The principles and details of the ECA's audit approach are described in a set of manuals, standards and guidelines, which apply the international standards to the specific EU audit context. They help our auditors to provide high quality professional work, and to operate efficiently and effectively.
The ECA’s audit manuals contain the detailed instructions for carrying out its audits, in line with the appropriate standards and expected quality. The ECA has developed two audit manuals covering the three main audit types
Financial and Compliance Audit Manual (FCAM)
The FCAM sets out the principles of the international auditing standards which are relevant to the ECA’s financial and compliance audits. It gives guidance on how to apply these principles when carrying out the ECA’s annual statement of assurance audit and other financial and compliance audits. The procedures contained in the manual are supplemented by practical guidance, including checklists and more detailed instructions. The ECA uses an IT-based audit support system to manage and document its audit work.
Performance Audit Manual (PAM)
The PAM sets out the principles of the international auditing standards which are relevant to the ECA’s performance audits, as well as generally accepted principles and good practice in performance auditing. It provides procedures and guidance on how to conduct high quality performance audits,
including how they should be planned, conducted, reported and followed up. The PAM supports the exercise of professional judgement at all stages of a performance audit. This is important given the variety of potential audit topics, objectives and data collection and analysis methods available.
The ECA uses an IT-based audit support system to manage and document its audit work.
Helping to fight fraud against the EU budget
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is responsible for the EU’s fight against fraud and protecting its financial interests. In accordance with its Decision No 43-2017 (which lays down arrangements for cooperation with OLAF), the ECA forwards to OLAF any suspicion of fraud, corruption or other illegal activity affecting the EU's financial interests. Potential frauds may be identified in the course of the ECA’s audit work, or be communicated to the ECA by third parties.
The EPPO is the EU’s new independent public prosecution office, responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes affecting the EU’s financial interests. The ECA and the EPPO have signed a
working arrangement, which came into effect on 3 September 2021. It sets out a structured framework for establishing and maintaining a cooperative relationship between both parties in order to protect the EU budget, while fully respecting the ECA’s and the EPPO’s mandates.