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EU auditors: More checks needed on agricultural policy spending

Staff Writer |
EU finance watchdog the European Court of Auditors have said that shifts to national audit bodies checking the legality and regularity of spending under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a positive step.

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But the current framework set up by the European Commission has significant design weaknesses.

The auditors examined the framework set up to enable national Certification Bodies to make judgements on spending CAP funds in line with EU regulations and international audit standards.

Certification Bodies appointed by the Member States have been independently auditing their respective countries’ CAP paying agencies since 1996.

Since 2015, they have also had to provide an opinion on the legality and regularity of spending for which reimbursement has been requested from the Commission. The CAP accounts for 40% of the entire EU budget, and the EU executive can claim back funds hit thinks were mishandled.

The auditors said this assurance model for the Commission has many positives - it cuts costs and allows access to independent opinions from member states’ appointed bodies - however, auditors found “weaknesses” with the current model, and made a number of recommendations for improvement, to be included in new Commission guidelines due into force from 2018.

João Figueiredo, the Member of the Court of Auditors responsible for the report, acknowledged that the Certification Bodies’ new role is a positive step, stating that it can help Member States strengthen their controls and reduce audit costs. It also enables the Commission to obtain independent additional assurance on the legality and regularity of spending.

However, the auditors concluded that “The framework designed by the Commission for the first year of the new system has significant weaknesses. As a result, the Certification Bodies’ opinions do not fully comply with audit standards and rules in important areas.”

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