EuropeAid is currently revising its Practical Guide to Contracts for 2013 and implementing system and audit program improvements. These are in response to the findings of the EU Court of Auditors’ 2011 annual report.
The report finds 27 percent of tested EuropeAid transactions are affected by “one or more errors.” This puts the group’s supervisory and control systems at the “partially effective” grade. Among the recommended actions are better efforts in grant contracts supervision, efficient use of on-the-spot visits to prevent and identify ineligible expenses, and increase audit coverage contracted by the European Commission.
Catherine Ray, spokeswoman for EuropeAid, told Devex the group’s 2.5 percent error rate is “not satisfactory but it’s not huge” given that the agency’s objective was to keep it below 2 percent. Further, the error was not due to fraud and “doesn’t mean waste of money.”
“The commission’s budget is highly scrutinized, “Ray noted. The auditors have given EuropeAid “a clean bill of health” and considered 96 percent of overall EU funding “well-managed and error-free.”
Although some errors may be attributed to technicalities such as the Court of Audit’s annual approach of assessment to EuropeAid’s multiannual control architecture, the aid group still strives to improve its already strict system and make it “more flexible but stronger and tighter.” Among efforts Ray enumerated are:
Supervisory and control systems upgrades with notably high levels of ex ante controls.
Extensive post-audit programs targeting the riskiest projects in the portfolio.
Rigorous controls every year and over the life cycle of projects.
Revision of the Practical Guide to Contracts, incorporating lessons from the errors found by the Court.
Introduction of a more formal assessment for both verification missions to the delegation and spot monitoring of the projects.
“Every time we travel, every time we meet with NGOs, this is part of the discussion – how to improve, how to be quicker, while striking the balance with the fact that we are managing the taxpayers’ money, our own family’s money,” Ray explained further.
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