The new role for national audit bodies of checking the legality and regularity of spending under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a positive step, but the current framework set up by the European Commission has significant design weaknesses, according to a report from the European Court of Auditors. The auditors examined the framework set up to enable national Certification Bodies to form their opinions in line with EU regulations and international audit standards. They make a number of recommendations for improvement, to be included in new Commission guidelines due into force from 2018.
Certification Bodies appointed by the Member States have been independently auditing their respective country’s CAP paying agencies since 1996. Since 2015, they have also had to provide an opinion on the legality and regularity of spending for which reimbursement has been requested from the Commission.
Mr João Figueiredo, the Member of the Court of Auditors responsible for the report, acknowledges that the Certification Bodies’ new role is a positive step because it can help Member States strengthen their controls and reduce audit costs. It also enables the Commission to obtain independent additional assurance on the legality and regularity of expenditure.
However, the auditors conclude that “The framework designed by the Commission for the first year of the new system has significant weaknesses. As a result, the Certification Bodies’ opinions do not fully comply with audit standards and rules in important areas.”