EUROSAI. Magazine N26 - 2021

EUROSAI 66 Information on EU EU SAIs audit COVID-19 measures The Contact Committee of the European Union’s supreme audit institutions offers a forum for discussing and addressing EU public audit issues. On 10 November 2021, the European Court of Auditors hosted an online Contact Committee event. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first official meeting of the heads of the EU supreme audit institutions (EU SAIs) since the 2019 Contact Committee meeting in Warsaw. The two sessions focused on the SAIs’ response to the COVID-19 crisis and the challenges of auditing Next Generation EU (NGEU), in particular the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. During the first session, the participants took the opportunity to discuss their recent audit work, covering a broad range of COVID-19 related issues ranging from procurement of personal protective equipment, to health and crisis management, to overall strategies for overcoming the socio-economic effects of the pandemic. The magnifying-glass effect of the pandemic revealed structural issues at every level. Auditing COVID-19 response measures is resource intensive, and teams must carry out these tasks on top of their ‘normal’ audit work. This may hamper the identification of potential audit gaps. Auditing recovery and resilience plans is of strategic importance to EU SAIs The second session was dedicated to discussing the EU’s response to the pandemic and its consequences for EU SAIs and their work. In December 2020, the EU and its Member States mobilised an unprecedented €1.8 trillion in funding to support recovery, adopting first the NGEU, then the multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027 a few days later. Particularly in the case of the RRF, which is a fairly innovative funding instrument by EU standards, success is heavily reliant on the relevance of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans and their effective implementation by the Member States. At the same time, it would be a missed opportunity if these additional funds were not used to their best effect to achieve a quick and sustainable recovery. Moreover, given the enormous amounts of funding made available to stimulate recovery, this is a key issue for EU SAIs to include in their strategic considerations and reflections. The heads of the SAIs agreed that this would be an ongoing task over the next few years, to help ensure accountability and the effective, efficient and economic use of these funds at every level. Given the diversity and complexity of the issues at stake, the heads of the SAIs welcomed the joint initiative by the ECA and the SAIs of Belgium and Germany to facilitate professional exchanges on NGEU-related issues and tasks at auditor level among the EU SAIs. The Contact Committee also endorsed the proposal to discuss NGEU implementation in greater depth, based on ongoing audit work, at its next meeting. This is due to take place in May 2022 at the ECA (COVID-19 permitting). This article was originally published in the ECA Journal 3/2021. European Court of Auditors HEADS OF EU SAIs DISCUSS RESPONSE TO COVID-19 CRISIS AND NEXT GENERATION EU