The Luxembourg-based EU auditors are increasing their focus on assessing performance in EU action to ensure the Union delivers and that citizens get value for money, according to a new activity report by the European Court of Auditors. Beyond verifying that spending complies with the rules, the auditors are checking that EU-funded policies and programmes in Member States deliver results and achieve more than could be achieved with actions at national level alone.
The activity report gives a comprehensive account of the ECA’s audit reports and publications, checks in Member States and non-EU countries, and its activities with institutional stakeholders - mainly the European Parliament, the Council and national parliaments - in 2018. The auditors also provide key information on their staff, management and finances, applying the same standards of transparency and accountability to themselves as they do to those they audit.
"Our reports provide an impartial assessment of EU policies and programmes," said Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors. "As the guardians of citizens' financial interests, we will continue working with our stakeholders to further improve the quality of the financial management of EU funds across Member States and beyond, making sure the Union and its Member States are delivering."
In 2018, the ECA issued a record number of performance (or “value-for-money”) audit reports and reviews. The auditors addressed the challenges the EU is facing in key policy areas such as fighting air pollution, completing EU-wide high-speed rail network, managing the facility for refugees in Turkey and ensuring effective banking supervision in the Union. In addition, they published their highest ever number of opinions on EU law-making - mainly on the new seven-year budget - as well as annual reports on the EU budget, development funds, EU agencies and other bodies such as research joint undertakings.
In 2018, the auditors made more presentations than ever to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, as well as to national parliaments. The European Commission and other audited bodies put most of the auditors’ recommendations for improvement into practice. At the same time, recipients of the 2018 audit reports indicate that they considered them to be useful and to have an impact on their work in relation to EU policies and the management of EU-funded programmes.
In 2018, the auditors spent 3 761 days auditing in Member States and non-EU countries. They carried out most audit checks in bigger Member States such as Italy, Germany and Poland, and fewest in Luxembourg, Malta and Croatia. Outside the EU, they carried out most checks in Turkey.
In its annual report on the EU budget, published in October 2018, the ECA again signed off the EU accounts as reliable and noted a trend of continuous decrease in spending errors. During the year, the auditors identified nine cases of suspected fraud with EU funds, which they communicated to the European Anti-Fraud Office.
The auditors also outlined their priority tasks for 2019. They will continue focusing on key issues for the future of the EU in the following areas:
•sustainable use of natural resources;
•growth and inclusion;
•migration, security and global development;
•the single market;
•an accountable and efficient EU.
The ECA’s budget in 2018 was around €146 million, less than 0.1 % of total EU spending or around 1.5 % of the Union's total administrative spending. The EU institution employs around 900 staff of all EU nationalities and has a gender-balanced workforce.
The ECA’s 2018 activity report is available at eca.europa.eu in 23 EU languages.