EU funds 'need more accountability'

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The management of European Union funds requires wider accountability through a 'statement of assurance', the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

In a report on the financial management of EU funds published today, the NAO welcomes measures like the provision of accrual accounts introduced in 2005 which have made clearer how it deals with its £70 billion budget.

But it says the publication of a statement of assurance on the legality and regularity of EU expenditure would go much further to strengthen confidence in the EU's practices.

Such a statement was initially made an objective in January 2005 by the European Commission and an action plan was drawn up a year later.

Whether the statement becomes a reality now depends on whether EU regulation can be reduced and, crucially, on whether member states succeed in efforts to ensure this deregulation is carried over into the management of Europe-wide programmes, the report argues.

"I am pleased to see member states of the EU, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom, taking forward the development of national statements of assurance which will allow national parliaments greater scrutiny of EU expenditure in their jurisdictions," Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, commented.

"It is essential to maintain the momentum of these improvements in financial management and it requires the support and cooperation by all the authorities – the Commission, the Council, the [European] court [of auditors] and member states," he added.

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