EUROSAI. Magazine N26 - 2021

Magazine No. 26 - 2021 69 Information on EU Suspected fraud The ECA reports all suspected fraud detected during its audit work to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which then decides whether to investigate and follow up, where appropriate in co-operation with national judicial authorities. In 2020, the ECA referred six cases of suspected fraud (2019: nine) to OLAF. In June 2021, the ECA started cooperating with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) based on the administrative arrangement between the two organisations. Implementation of the EU budget The ECA also analysed the implementation and use of the EU budget in 2020. The available budget for 2020 was almost fully implemented. In order to react quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and provide support, two main budgetary tools were used: amending budgets and transfers. Outstanding commitments continued to rise, reaching €303.2 billion by the end of 2020. The increase was smaller than in previous years, partly due to the additional payment appropriations being made available for combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The overall annual absorption rate for 2020, the final year of the 2014-2020 MFF, was 15 %: the same as the rate in 2013, the final year of the previous 2007-2013 MFF. However, cumulative absorption was around 7 % lower than under the previous MFF. While by the end of 2020, all of the European Structural and Investment Funds allocated to the Member States (€465 billion) had been committed, this left 45 % (€209 billion) to be absorbed with considerable differences between Member States. This amount constitutes the main part of the outstanding commitments at the end of 2020. Great challenges ahead The EU response to the COVID-19 pandemic will have a very substantial impact on the EU’s finances: for the 2021-2027 financial period, the combined funding allocation from the Next Generation EU (NGEU) instrument and the MFF will be €1 824 billion, almost twice the amount of spending in the previous MFF period. In view of this, the ECA identified the risk of a delayed start to the implementation of shared management funds in the 2021-2027 financial period, as well as challenges related to sound financial management in the use of funds due to COVID-19 related changes. “In view of the great challenges that lie ahead of us, we must remain even more vigilant about the financial soundness of the EU”, said ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne. “Over the next seven years, the EU will spend significantly more than in the previous programme period. The 27 Member States agreed on a COVID-19 recovery programme, which will be financed by issuing public debt. This decision marks a major shift in EU finances. It entails an obvious need for effective checks on how EU money is spent, and on whether the intended results are achieved.” Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the ECA, presenting the Annual Reports to the European Parliament in plenary session. © European Union 2021 - Source: European Parliament, Brigitte Hase