EU ‘lacks drive, leadership and data’ to tackle fraud effectively

10 Jan 19

More drive and leadership is needed in the EU to effectively tackle fraud, auditors have urged.

The European Court of Auditors suggested that the European Commission lacks information about the “scale, nature and causes” of fraud in EU spending, weakening its anti-fraud efforts, in a report out today.

It added the official statistics on detected fraud by the commission were not complete.

The auditors noted the commission had not carried out any assessment of undetected fraud or detailed analysis of what causes some recipients of EU money to commit fraud.

Fighting fraud is a “key responsibility of the European Commission”, the auditors said. But the lack of information reduces the value of the commission’s anti-fraud measures, it added.  

The report said: “Based on these observations, we consider that more drive and leadership is needed in the EU to take real action against fraud in EU spending.”

It added the commission and member states should “step up [the] fight against fraud” by clarifying and reinforcing responsibilities of the parties involved in managing anti-fraud efforts, both at the EU level and in member states.

The report also called for reforms of OLAF – the EU’s anti-fraud office – and reconsider its role and responsibilities, to ensure more effective action.

Juhan Parts, the auditor-lead on the report, said: “It is time for real action: the commission should set up an effective system to prevent, detect and deter fraudsters. A reform of OLAF will be the litmus test for the commission’s commitment to fighting fraud.”

The body’s administrative investigations often take a long time, causing delays to criminal prosecutions, the auditors also concluded.  

The EU is setting up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, which will have investigative and prosecution powers. The auditors said this was “a step in the right direction”.

However, the ECA called for further clarity on how EPPO will urge member states to allocate resources necessary to investigate fraud of EU spending.

The audit examined the commission’s management of fraud risk in EU spending, particularly its anti-fraud strategy, prevention tools and data available, as well as OLAF’s administrative investigations.

The report echoes what the ECA said in November last year, that plans to step up the EU’s anti-fraud work were “not enough to improve effectiveness”.

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