This document, the 2014 EU audit in brief, summarises and explains the contents of the European Court of Auditors’ (ECA) annual reports on the implementation of the 2014 EU budget and the European Development Funds.
In the reports, we provide assurance on how EU funds were used during the year, highlighting where they were most at risk of being spent irregularly. We also analyse why errors occur and provide recommendations on how to improve financial management. Our main aim is to assist the European Parliament and the Council in scrutinising EU financial management as part of the discharge procedure on the EU budget.
The financial year 2014 was the first year of the EU programming period 2014-2020. However, most of the EU’s spending in 2014 was planned during 2007-2013. So, as would be expected, our report highlights similar financial management issues to previous years.
For many years now, we have identified persistently high levels of error in EU spending. So, we highlight the scope for making better use of available information and full use of corrective powers to reduce errors further and recover more misspent funds.
Of course, the EU must always strive to do more with what it already has in place. So, we have advocated that the focus should be more on performance when spending EU money during the current period.
The ECA also considers that EU policymakers need to develop a wholly new approach to the management of EU spending and investment for the future. The upcoming mid‑term review of the EU’s financial planning programme offers an opportunity to consider how best to both reduce errors and improve the overall performance of the EU budget.
In the meantime, we also draw attention to the pressing need for the Commission and Member States to deal with a number of financial backlogs that have built up. In some Member States, the total not yet claimed from EU funds represents a significant portion of their governments’ annual spending.
If the EU institutions and the Member States want to achieve the full potential of the EU budget to invest in Europe’s future, there needs to be a concerted effort to improve its effectiveness. That means improving the EU budget’s potential to invest in the future of Europe by reducing errors, paying correct claims more quickly, investing in projects that match the Union’s objectives, and measuring the returns on those investments to ensure they deliver and add value.
Citizens have a right to know the status of those investments and how they have performed. The ECA is committed to playing an important role in assuring that EU funds are soundly invested and performing well, warning where they are at risk and advising on how to improve their performance.
Vítor Manuel da SILVA CALDEIRA
President of the European Court of Auditors