The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has issued a special report on the effectiveness of the systems established and operated by member states to recover identified debts.
The ECA performance audit assessed the effectiveness of the systems established and operated by member states to recover identified debts, together with the European Commission's supervision of the process.
The reason for the audit is because the EU spends around €55 billion per year on agriculture and rural development, yet some ends up being wrongly paid due to irregular or incorrect claims or other errors. Thus, the report is examining the procedures for the recovery of such unwarranted payments.
Questions that were addressed included whether states process and record debts correctly and if they are successful in recovering identified undue payments.
The audit concluded that, on the whole, member states process and record debts in accordance with the rules and requirements. However, problems do exist in the interpretation of the regulations; for example, debts are recognised at different times and reported figures are not comparable.
Member states are also now recovering a greater proportion of new debts, although the ECA points out that the amounts being recorded have reduced. Approximately 90% of the amounts reported in the EU annual accounts as “recoveries of undue payments” were those made by the Commission through deductions from member states, and not actual recoveries of the unduly paid aid from beneficiaries.
Due to the weaknesses that still exist, the ECA has made a series of recommendations to improve debt recovery. Including that the Commission should further improve the way in which debts in the member states are managed and reported upon to ensure a consistent treatment of these debts across all member states, and to consider how to recover a greater proportion of undue payments from beneficiaries.