Court of Auditors fears insufficient control over use of EU Relief Fund
The European Commission has too little control over member states' spending of billions of euros from the European COVID-19 recovery fund, the European Court of Auditors denounced in a special report on Wednesday. Earlier this year, Belgium decided to delay applying for 850 million euros in recovery funds, in order first to achieve all 20 milestones put forward by the European Commission.
"Citizens will only have confidence in new EU funding methods if they can be confident that their money is being well spent," EU Court of Auditors president Tony Murphy stated on Wednesday. "There is currently a gap in terms of the assurance the Commission can provide for the main post-COVID-19 recovery fund, as well as a lack of accountability at the EU level."
The fund (Recovery and Resilience Facility, RRF) was set up during the COVID-19 crisis to help member states recover from the economic shock caused by the pandemic. The RRF offers member states a total of 723.8 billion euros in grants and loans. To receive these funds, however, they must implement specific reforms set out in so-called milestones and targets.
According to the Court of Auditors, the Commission has quickly established a comprehensive monitoring system to check whether those milestones and targets are being met. However, this system provides little verified information showing whether and how member states' investment projects comply with national and European rules. With funding from the regular European budget, however, this is a prerequisite for payments.
The auditors warn that non-compliance with national and European rules, for example, on procurement and state aid, is common in other European spending programmes and poses a severe risk to protecting the EU's financial interests. They, therefore, call on the Commission to consider how it can better monitor these national controls and provide more assurance on the correct use of the relief fund.
In January, Belgium decided to delay applying for 850 million euros in EU recovery funds, in order first to achieve all 20 milestones put forward by the European Commission. Belgium is entitled to 4.5 billion euros from the EU's NextGenerationEU recovery fund.
© BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ