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EU auditors refuse to sign off on annual accounts for 12th year

European Union auditors 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 of payments were made in 2005 from the EU's budget. “Errors with a financial impact are found too frequently for the court to conclude that all is well,” the panel's president, Hubert Weber, said in a statement on the court's website today. “The underlying reason why most errors occur is that the beneficiaries -- farmers, local authorities, project managers -- claim more than they have the right to claim.” The auditors said the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, made considerable progress in introducing a new accounting system. The opinion 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 actually already delegated to member states,” the commission said in an e-mailed statement. “Most of the errors found by the court concerned EU funds under national management.” (Bloomberg)