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Balls proposes UK plan to end „embarrassment” of EU budget

Ed Balls, UK Treasury minister, will propose a plan to end the „annual embarrassment” caused by auditors' rejection of European Union accounts, calling on each of the bloc's 25 nations to show how they spend money handed out by Brussels.

EU auditors said on October 24 that they found „weak internal controls” for a majority of the bloc's spending and a „high incidence of errors,” as the financial watchdogs refused to sign off on the 2005 accounts. It is the 12th straight year the Luxembourg-based European Court of Auditors has withheld its approval. The court said €104.8 billion ($132 billion) of payments were made in 2005 from the EU's budget.

Balls will outline plans to parliament today ahead a trip to Brussels tomorrow for talks with EU finance ministers. „Europe must do better to end this annual embarrassment,” Balls will say in a speech later today, according an extract released by his office. „By giving national parliaments greater opportunity to scrutinize how EU funds are managed, I believe we can help give taxpayers the reassurances they rightly expect.”

Britain's National Audit Office, the government auditor, will provide parliament with an annual statement of EU budget spending in the UK, Balls will say. He will urge other nations to follow in an effort to cut down on waste, fraud and improve how EU agricultural and structural funds are spent. „All member states must accept their responsibilities to work together to achieve the clean bill of health,” Balls will say. The Treasury said the UK plan will initially get the backing of the Netherlands, Denmark, and EU institutions.

The EU's auditors said last month that the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, made considerable progress in introducing a new accounting system. The auditors said the „weak internal controls” referred to expenditures by the EU's 25 member countries and the commission itself. Commission officials defended their handling of the budget, saying the auditors found errors and „not fraud.” As much as 76% of the EU spending is delegated to member states. (Bloomberg)