European Court of Auditors (ECA)

05 Jul: The Commission’s response to fraud in the Common Agricultural Policy – Time to dig deeper/ Special Report

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

​​Fraud harms the EU’s financial interests and prevents EU resources from achieving the policy objectives. In this report, we present an overview of the fraud risks affecting the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and assess the Commission’s response to fraud in the CAP. We conclude that the Commission has responded to instances of fraud in CAP spending, but was not sufficiently proactive in addressing the impact of the risk of illegal land grabbing on CAP payments, in monitoring Member States’ anti-fraud measures, and in exploiting the potential of new technologies. We recommend to the Commission actions …

04 Jul: Special report 17/2022: External consultants at the European Commission – Scope for reform

(Source: Court of Auditors)

The Commission makes extensive use of external consultants, committing almost €1 billion for this purpose each year between 2017 and 2020. We analysed whether the Commission manages external consultants’ services in a way which safeguards its interests and ensures value for money. External consultants contribute to the development of the Commission’s objectives. However, there are significant gaps in the Commission’s framework governing the use of these services, bringing risks of overdependence and potential conflicts of interest. The Commission did not manage these risks sufficiently, and its reporting on the use of consultants was weak. We make …

30 Jun: Special report 17/2022: External consultants at the European Commission – Scope for reform

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

​​The Commission makes extensive use of external consultants, committing almost €1 billion for this purpose each year between 2017 and 2020. We analysed whether the Commission manages external consultants’ services in a way which safeguards its interests and ensures value for money. External consultants contribute to the development of the Commission’s objectives. However, there are significant gaps in the Commission’s framework governing the use of these services, bringing risks of overdependence and potential conflicts of interest. The Commission did not manage these risks sufficiently, and its reporting on the use of consultants was weak. We …

29 Jun: Special report 16/2022: Data in the Common Agricultural Policy – Unrealised potential of big data for policy evaluations

(Source: Court of Auditors)

Using an evidence-based approach in policy decisions requires various data from different sources and subsequent analysis. We assessed whether the Commission is making good use of data and data analytics for policy design, monitoring and evaluation of the Common Agricultural Policy, which represent more than a third of the EU budget. We found that the Commission has taken several initiatives to make better use of existing data. However, barriers to making the best use of collected data remain. Obstacles such as a lack of standardisation and limitations due to data aggregation reduce data availability and usability. …

20 Jun: Special report 12/2022: Durability in rural development – Most projects remain operational for the period required, but there are opportunities to achieve longer lasting results

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

Since 2007, the Commission has spent more than €25 billion of rural development funds to diversify its rural economy and improve infrastructure. Funded projects were required to remain operational for at least five years.

We examined whether these investments delivered durable benefits. We found that legal durability requirements are largely met. The durability of diversification projects varied across sectors and Member States. Weak economic performance and illegitimate private use affect the durability of projects such as tourist accommodation.

We recommend that the Commission should share best practices to better target funds on viable projects, mitigate …

16 Jun: Special Report 15/2022: Measures to widen participation in Horizon 2020 were well designed but sustainable change will mostly depend on efforts by national authorities

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

To tackle the innovation divide, Horizon 2020 introduced specific widening measures to support Member States lagging behind in research and innovation. We assessed whether these measures were fit for purpose.

We conclude that the widening measures were well-designed to address the limited participation of widening countries in R&I framework programmes, but sustainable change requires efforts at national level. The ability of the Policy Support Facility to induce these changes was limited.

The participation in the widening measures was uneven and the funded projects, whilst starting to show promising results, face challenges in terms of complementary …

14 Jun: Special report 13/2022: Free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic – Limited scrutiny of internal border controls, and uncoordinated actions by Member States

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

The right of EU citizens to move freely within the territory of the EU Member States is a fundamental freedom of the European Union. We examined the Commission’s supervision of the internal Schengen border controls and travel restrictions imposed by the Member States during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the efforts undertaken at EU level to coordinate these restrictions until the end of June 2021. We conclude that the limitations of the legal framework hindered the Commission’s supervision of free movement restrictions imposed by the Member States. Furthermore, the Commission did not exercise proper …

01 Jun: Small companies’ competitiveness barely improved by EU support

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are key to the EU’s economy. But they have not really benefited from EU action aimed at enhancing their competitiveness. That is the conclusion reached by the European Court of Auditors in a special report published today. EU funds stimulated SMEs’ willingness to invest, but their impact and effectiveness on competitiveness were rather limited, to the extent that most supported SMEs did simply not derive any real benefit from the EU support. The auditors urge the European Commission and the Member States to make better use of EU funding so …

31 May: Special Report 09/2022: Climate spending in the 2014-2020 EU budget- Not as high as reported

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

The EU committed to spending at least 20 % of its 2014-2020 budget on climate action. The Commission announced that the EU met the target, with €216 billion reported in climate spending for this period. We found that the reported spending was not always relevant to climate action and climate reporting was overstated overall. We estimated that it was overstated by at least €72 billion.

Despite the planned improvements in 2021-2027 climate action reporting, challenges remain. Our recommendations aim to enhance climate reporting and to link the EU’s budgetary contribution to its climate and energy …

23 May: Special report 11/2022: Protecting the EU budget – Better use of blacklisting needed

(Source: European Court of Auditors)

“Blacklisting” is a measure aimed at preventing fraud. Through its EDES database, the EU tries to exclude untrustworthy counterparties, such as those involved in fraud, corruption or other irregularities, from receiving public funds. Our audit assessed whether blacklisting is being used effectively to protect the EU budget. We concluded that the current system is not effective as there is no coherent set of obligations for the different payment modes. Furthermore, for funds managed by Member States, the use of exclusion systems is not mandatory. Fragmented responsibilities and shortcomings in identifying excludable counterparties lead to few …