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Will there ever be accountability in European spending?

For the seventeenth year on the trot, the Court of Auditors has been unable to sign off the EU budget. Sadly, it would have been a bigger shock if they were successful

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Time to take a closer look at where Eurozone tax-payers' money is going
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Anthony Pickles
On 14 November 2011 11:08

Unbeknown to most of Europe’s 500 million citizens (and subjects) the Court of Auditors gave their annual report to the European Parliament in Brussels last week.

For the seventeenth, yes seventeenth year on the trot, the Court of Auditors has been unable to sign off the EU budget.

The auditors said that they were unable to account for 3.7 percent of European spending. This equates to €4.6 Billion of the European Union’s colossal €122 Billion annual budget.

In Brussels on Thursday, nobody seemed to bat an eyelid. Why should they? It would have been a bigger shock if they had actually signed off the budget for once.

However at a time when the Eurozone is in such crisis and the European Commission is demanding a 6 percent rise in spending for next year, how can it be acceptable that for seventeen years, billions of taxpayer’s money has been lost, stolen or fraudulently spent?

As a rebuttal, a spokesperson for the Court of Auditors said that the “error rate has remained relatively stable.” Well that’s alright then.

In any business, or national parliament, if they auditors were unable to sign off the annual budget because of non compliance with the rules, or straightforward fraud, heads would roll.

So why haven’t they? Why isn’t the European Commission investigating this outrageous annual admission of fraud? If the European Union needs funds that come from its citizens, that money should be transparently spent, and it should be accountable to whoever spent it.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) was set up in 1977 to make the then European Community more accountable to the citizens through correct auditing of its accounts. However since 1994, there hasn’t been a single European budget that has been approved.

The ECA made clear in their 2010 year report, “Responsibility for the legality and regularity of spending on Cohesion Policies starts in the Member States, but the Commission bears the ultimate responsibility for the correct implementation of the budget.”

If this is the case, who have the Commission sacked? Why is there not more pressure on the Commission to look into where €4.6 Billion of taxpayer’s money went?

In the glass bubble of the European Parliament on Thursday, bureaucrats, MEPs and teams of assistants seemed to be going about their daily routines oblivious to this announcement, as did the press.

Perhaps it would have been a bigger story had it been reported that the auditors had finally signed off this huge budget. It is possible, that the press, like many European citizens simply have European fraud-story fatigue.

However this should not mean that people don’t care that billions from their pockets are unaccounted for.

Outside the entrance of the Altiero Spinelli building in Brussels, there is currently a huge rainbow representing the Polish presidency of the European Council. It is ironic that the pot of gold isn’t present. Maybe that is unaccounted for too?

Anthony Pickles is a Parliamentary Researcher and Conservative activist. 

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Read more on: european union, European Parliament, european union's annual budget, European Commission, unaccounted money in the EU budget, and European court of auditors
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