Select Committee on European Union Fiftieth Report


APPENDIX 4: THE 2005 STATEMENT OF ASSURANCE


The Court provides a Statement of Assurance in accordance with Article 248 of the EC Treaty on:

  • the reliability of the accounts;
  • the legality and regularity of underlying transactions.

The full text of the Statement is set out below.

I.  Pursuant to the provisions of Article 248 of the Treaty the Court has examined the "Final annual accounts of the European Communities" consisting of the "Consolidated financial statements and the consolidated reports on implementation of the budget" for the financial year ended 31 December 2005.

II.  In accordance with the Financial Regulation of 25 June 2002, the "Consolidated financial statements" for the financial year 2005 are prepared for the first time on the basis of accounting rules adopted by the Commission's Accounting Officer which adapt accruals based accounting principles to the specific environment of the Communities, while the "Consolidated reports on implementation of the budget" continue to be primarily based on movements of cash. The change-over to accruals based accounting required a restatement of the opening balance sheet as at 1 January 2005 and important changes in the presentation and content of the "Consolidated financial statements".

III.  The "Final annual accounts of the European Communities" are consolidated by the Commission's Accounting Officer and approved by the Commission. The Court's responsibility is to provide, based on its audit, the European Parliament and the Council with a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions.

IV.  The Court carried out its audit in accordance with its own policies and standards which are based on international standards that have been adapted to the Community context. Through its audit, the Court has obtained a reasonable basis for the opinion expressed below. In the case of revenue the scope of the Court's audit work was limited. Firstly, VAT and GNI own resources are based on macroeconomic statistics for which the underlying data cannot be audited directly by the Court, and secondly, the audits of traditional own resources cannot cover the imports hat have not been subject to custom supervision.

Reliability of the accounts

V.  In the Court's opinion, the "Final annual accounts of the European Communities" were drawn up in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Regulation of 25 June 2002 and accounting rules adopted by the Commission's Accounting Officer. Except for the effects of the observations in paragraphs VI to VIII, they present fairly, in all material respects the financial position of the Communities as of 31 December 2005, and the results of their operations and cash flows for the year then ended.

VI.  The Court notes that, in the context of a complex exercise (see paragraph II), the existing financial reporting framework has not been consistently applied, in particular for cut-off, and that accounting systems in certain Directorates-General of the Commission were not able to ensure the quality of financial information which led to multiple corrections after the presentation of the provisional accounts (see paragraphs VII and VIII).

VII.  The Court's audit has identified errors in amounts registered in the accounting system as invoices/cost statements and pre-financing which, after corrections made to the provisional accounts, still have the following net financial impact on the elements of the consolidated financial statements listed below (see also paragraph VIII):

(a)  The consolidated opening balance sheet as at 1 January 2005, which adjusted the consolidated closing balance sheet as at 31 December 2004 on the basis of the new accruals based accounting principles, overstates the accounts payable by some 47 million euro and overstates the total amount of long term and short term pre financing by some 179 million euro. As a result, the net assets are overstated by some 132 million euro.

(b)  The errors identified in (a) above affected the consolidated closing balance sheet as at 31 December 2005 which overstates the accounts payable by some 508 million euro and the total amount of long term and short term pre-financing by some 822 million euro. As a result the net assets are overstated by some 314 million euro.

VIII.  The Court's audit also confirmed the general reservation of the Director-General for Education and Culture covering the lack of assurance as regards the correctness of its share of the total amounts, included in both the consolidated opening balance sheet as at 1 January 2005 (assets amounting to 572,5 million euro and liabilities amounting to 198,5 million euro) and the consolidated closing balance sheet as at 31 December 2005 (assets amounting to 382,7 million euro and liabilities amounting to 187,3 million euro). Given the incidence of omissions and double or wrong postings within this Directorate-General, it is not possible to quantify the over- or understatement in its share of the assets and liabilities.

Legality and regularity of the underlying transactions

IX.  In areas where the supervisory and control systems are implemented in a manner which provides for an adequate risk management, the transactions underlying the final annual accounts of the European Communities, taken as a whole, are legal and regular. This is the case for revenue, commitments and payments for administrative expenditure and pre accession strategy with the exception of the SAPARD Programme. Moreover, for Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) expenditure the Court's audit shows that, where properly applied, the integrated administration and control system (IACS) is an effective system to limit the risk of irregular expenditure.

X.  Without calling into question the opinion expressed in paragraph IX, the Court emphasises that, in the area of pre-accession strategy, significant risks still exist at the level of the implementing organisations in the acceding and candidate countries for all programmes and instruments.

XI.  The Court notes that in the other areas, payments are still materially affected by errors and the Commission and the Member and other beneficiary states need to make an increased effort to implement adequate supervisory and control systems, so as to improve the handling of the attendant risks. These areas are listed below, namely: Common Agricultural Policy, Structural measures, Internal policies and External actions.

(a)  In CAP expenditure, the Court found evidence that expenditure which is not subject to IACS, or where IACS is not properly applied or where it has only been recently introduced poses greater risk because control systems are not as effective. In addition, IACS inspection results are insufficiently verified and validated by an independent body and claims for EU aid are not usually checked on the spot by the latter. Clearance systems and post payment checks for CAP subsidies not covered by IACS do not provide reasonable assurance as to compliance with Community legislation. The Court concluded that CAP expenditure, viewed as a whole, was still materially affected by errors.

(b)  In structural measures, the Court again found that the Commission does not maintain effective supervision to mitigate the risk that the controls delegated to Member States fail to prevent reimbursement of overstated or ineligible expenditure. For both programming periods (1994-1999 and 2000-2006), the Court found that expenditure was not free of material irregularities. Some programs for the 1994 to 1999 period were closed without a sound basis.

(c)  In internal policies, despite the progress made in certain areas, the Court's audit revealed weaknesses in the supervisory and control systems which led to a material incidence of errors in payments to beneficiaries. Errors arise mainly from complicated cost reimbursement systems and unclear procedures and instructions governing the different programmes.

(d)  In external actions, the improvements of the Commission's supervisory and control systems have not yet had an impact at the implementing organisation level, where a material level of errors still exists, which can be attributed to the lack of a comprehensive approach to the supervision, control and audit of these organisations.


 
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