Improve fraud reporting, say MEPs
Member states must do more to meet their reporting obligations for fraud and other irregularities in the way EU funds are spent, MEPs have said.
A resolution passed by the European Parliament by an overwhelming 655 votes to three blamed member states for the lack of information in the European Commission's 2009 annual report. It described fraud rates in countries such as France and Spain as "suspiciously low" and called on the commission to do more to ensure EU funds are spent correctly and recovered more quickly where they have been misused.
The resolution also suggested a clearer distinction should be made between illegal fraud and other irregularities which break EU rules – and said that future reports should include a breakdown of figures for each member state so that disciplinary action can be taken more easily. MEPs described the current recovery rate for misspent agriculture and cohesion funds as "catastrophic".
They said that national politicians should take greater responsibility for the ways EU money is spent by managing authorities. The resolution particularly criticised the United Kingdom, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands and Slovakia for failing to meet their reporting requirements for agriculture but said irregularities in the sector were highest in Spain and Italy. Member states and EU agencies should do more to tackle corruption and impose sanctions where it is found, they added.
Although MEPs expressed concern about errors in spending cohesion funds, it accepted that some irregularities were due to the complexity of procurement procedures and asked the commission to simplify the rules.