The COURT OF AUDITORS (EUROPEAN COURT OF AUDITORS, ECA) (French: Cour
des comptes européenne) is the fifth institution of the European
Union (EU). It was established in 1975 in
* 1 History * 2 Functions
* 3 Organisation
* 3.1 President
* 3.2 Secretary-general
* 3.2.1 List of Secretaries-General of the European Court of Auditors
* 4 Criticism
* 4.1 Declaration of Assurance * 4.2 Size
* 5 See also * 6 References * 7 External links
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Main article: History of the European Union
The Court of Auditors was created by the 1975 Budgetary Treaty and
was formally established on 18 October 1977, holding its first session
a week later. At that time the Court was not a formal institution; it
was an external body designed to audit the finances of the European
Communities . It replaced two separate audit bodies, one which dealt
with the finances of the
European Economic Community and
The Court did not have a defined legal status until the Treaty of
Maastricht when it was made the fifth institution, the first new
institution since the founding of the Community. By becoming an
institution it gained some new powers, such as the ability to bring
actions before the
European Court of Justice
Despite its name, the Court has no judicial functions. It is rather a
professional external investigatory audit agency. The primary role of
the court is to externally check if the budget of the European Union
has been implemented correctly, in that EU funds have been spent
legally and with sound management. In doing so, the court checks the
paperwork of all persons handling any income or expenditure of the
Union and carries out spot checks. The court is bound to report any
problems in the Court's reports for the attention of other states and
institutions, these reports include its general annual report as well
as specific and special reports on certain bodies and issues. The
Court's decision is the basis for the
In this role, the Court has to remain independent yet remain in touch with the other institutions; for example, a key role is the presentation of the Court's annual report to the European Parliament . It is based on this report that the Parliament makes its decision on whether or not to sign off the European Commission's handling of the budget for that year. The Parliament notably refused to do this in 1984 and 1999, the latter case forced the resignation of the Santer Commission . The Court, if satisfied, also sends assurances to the Council and Parliament that the taxpayers' money is being properly used, and the Court must be consulted before the adoption of any legislation with financial implications, but its opinion is never binding.
The ECA's premises in
The Court is composed of one member from each EU state, each of whom is—after a hearing in the Budgetary Control Committee and a non-binding majority-vote in the committee as well as in the plenary of the European Parliament—appointed unanimously by the Council of the European Union for a renewable term of six years. They are not all replaced every six years, however, as their terms do not coincide (four of the original members began with reduced terms of four years for this reason). Members are chosen from people who have served in national audit bodies, who are qualified for the office and whose independence is beyond doubt. While serving in the Court, members cannot engage in any other professional activities. As the body is independent, its members are free to decide their own organisation and rules of procedure, although these must be ratified by the Council of the European Union. Since the Treaty of Nice, the Court can set up "chambers" (with only a few Members each) to adopt certain types of reports or opinions.
The Court is supported by a staff of approximately 800 auditors,
translators and administrators recruited as part of the European Civil
Service . Auditors are divided into auditor groups which inspect and
prepare draft reports for the Court to take decisions upon.
Inspections take place not only of EU institutions but of any state
which receives EU funds, given that 90% of income and expenditure is
managed by national authorities rather than the EU. Upon finding a
fault, the Court—possessing no legal powers of its own—informs the
European Anti-fraud Office
The members then elect one of their number as the President of the Court for a renewable three-year term. The election takes place by a secret ballot of those members who applied for the presidency. The duties of the President (which may be delegated) are to convene and chair the meetings of the Court, ensuring that decisions are implemented and the departments (and other activities) are soundly managed. The president also represents the court and appoints a representative for it in contentious proceedings.
The current President is Klaus-Heiner Lehne, elected on 13 September
2016. He succeeded Vítor Manuel da Silva Caldeira (of
Secretary-General is the
European Court of Auditors
List Of Secretaries-General Of The European Court Of Auditors
* Patrick Everard - 16.10.1989 to 9.2.1994
* Edouard Ruppert - 25.2.1994 to 30.6.2001
* Michel Hervé - 1.7.2001 to 31.10.2008 -
DECLARATION OF ASSURANCE
Since 1994 the Court has been required to provide a "Declaration of Assurance", essentially a certificate that an entire annual budget can be accounted for. This has proved to be a problem, as even relatively minor omissions require the Court to refuse a declaration of assurance for the entire budget, even if almost all of the budget is considered reliable.
This has led to media reports of the EU accounts being "riddled with
fraud ", where issues are based on errors in paperwork even though the
underlying spending was legal. The auditing system itself has drawn
criticism from this perception. The Commission in particular has
stated that the bar is too high, and that only 0.09% of the budget is
subject to fraud. The Commission has elsewhere stated that it is
important to distinguish between fraud and other irregularities. The
controversial dismissal in 2003 of
It is frequently claimed that annual accounts have not been certified by the external auditor since 1994. In its annual report on the implementation of the 2009 EU Budget, the Court of Auditors found that the two biggest areas of the EU budget, agriculture and regional spending, have not been signed off on and remain "materially affected by error".
Terry Wynn , an MEP who served on the Parliament's Committee on
Budgetary Control and reached the position of chairman, has also
backed these calls, stating that it is impossible for the Commission
to achieve these standards. In a report entitled EU Budget – Public
Perception this led to the number of its special reports per year
shrinking from fifteen to six between 2003 and 2005, despite its staff
growing by 200 over the same period. Some proposals have been for its
size to be reduced to five members or just one, possibly with an
advisory board with members from each member state. However, neither
the European Constitution nor the
Treaty of Lisbon
National Audit Office (United Kingdom)
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Europa (web portal) . 1999. Retrieved 15 October
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Retrieved 28 April 2013.
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CVCE. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
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Retrieved 28 April 2013.
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28 April 2013.
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* ^ "Protection of the European Union\'s financial interests –
Fight against fraud – Annual Report 2009 (vid. p. 5)" (PDF). Europa.
Retrieved 22 December 2010.
* ^ A B "OpenEurope". OpenEurope. Retrieved 14 September 2011.
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Retrieved 22 December 2010.
* ^ Karlsson, Jan; Tobisson, Lars. "‘Much talk, little action’
at European Court of Auditors".