A report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) finds that most of the errors in rural development policy are due to breaches of conditions set by Member States. Their control authorities could and should have detected and corrected most of the errors affecting investment measures in rural development. Their control systems are deficient because checks are not exhaustive and are based on insufficient information.
“It’s important to understand why the rate of errors in rural development policy is unacceptably high. The key to bringing it down is to strike the right balance between the number and complexity of rules governing spending - which help achieve policy goals such as improving agricultural competitiveness - and the efforts to guarantee compliance with such rules,” commented Rasa Budbergytė, the ECA Member responsible for the report.
This Special Report entitled “Errors in rural development spending: what are the causes, and how are they being addressed?” focuses on the compliance of rural development implementation with the applicable laws and regulations and describes the main causes of the high error rate for rural development. It also assesses whether the steps taken by the Member States and the Commission are likely to address the identified causes effectively in the future. The report includes information made available to the auditors up to the end of September 2014.
The EU and Member States allocated more than 150 billion euro to rural development policy during the 2007-2013 programming period, divided almost equally between investment measures and area-related aid. Rural development expenditure is implemented by shared management between the Member States and the Commission. Member States are responsible for implementing the rural development programmes at the appropriate territorial level, according to their own institutional arrangements. The Commission is responsible for supervising Member States to ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities.
The significant level of non-compliance with applicable rules, as reflected in the high error rate, means that the money concerned is not spent according to the rules. This may negatively affect the attainment of rural development policy objectives, such as improving the competitiveness of agriculture and forestry, improving the environment and the countryside, improving the quality of life in rural areas and encouraging the diversification of economic activity.