As an EU institution, established by Treaty, the ECA performs its audits within an inter-institutional framework laid down mainly by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the Financial Regulation for the general budget of the EU.
European Court of Auditors – an EU institution
According to the Treaty, the ECA is an institution of the European Union. The other EU institutions are: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the EU (simply called "Council"), the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the EU, and the European Central Bank.
European Court of Auditors – the EU's independent external auditor
“The Court of Auditors shall carry out the Union’s audit” (TFEU, Article 285)
The TFEU confers upon the European Court of Auditors the main task of carrying out the Union’s audit with the dual aim of improving financial management and reporting to the citizens of Europe on the use made of public funds by the authorities responsible for their management.
Provisions of the Treaty
Article 285 – The Court of Auditors (composition)
Article 286 – The Court of Auditors (duties of the Members)
Article 287 – The Court of Auditors (tasks)
According to the Treaty, the ECA examines the accounts of all revenue and expenditure of the Union and also examines the accounts of all revenue and expenditure of all bodies, offices or agencies set up by the Union, in so far as the relevant constituent instrument does not preclude such examination.
The ECA provides the European Parliament and the Council with a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions which is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. This statement may be supplemented by specific assessments for each major area of Union activity.
The ECA examines whether all revenue has been received and all expenditure incurred in a lawful and regular manner and whether the financial management has been sound. In doing so, the Court has to report in particular on any cases of irregularity.
After the close of each financial year the European Court of Auditors draws up an annual report that is forwarded to the other institutions of the Union and published, together with the replies of these institutions to the observations of the Court, in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The ECA may also, at any time, submit observations, particularly in the form of special reports, on specific questions and deliver opinions at the request of one of the other institutions of the Union.
The European Court of Auditors also assists the European Parliament and the Council in exercising their powers of control over the implementation of the budget.
In respect of the European Central Bank, the ECA´s audit powers are limited to the examination of the operational efficiency of the management of the ECB (Article 27 of the Protocol No. 4 to the Treaty).
The reference text concerning the financial provisions may be found under Articles 310 to 325 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Article 319 – Implementation of the budget and discharge
Article 322 – Common provisions
Article 325 – Combatting fraud
Rules of Procedure
As an EU institution established by the Treaty, the ECA’s operations must be governed by the appropriate rules and procedures.
The ECA’s Rules of Procedure are required by Article 287 of the TFEU and are approved by the Council of the EU. The ECA determines its own rules for implementing its Rules of Procedure.