ECA president: auditors can help EU overcome democratic deficit

10 Jun 14

Auditors can help the European Union to strengthen its democratic legitimacy and accountability to citizens, the president of the European Court of Auditors has said.

In a speech marking the Romanian Court of Auditors’ 150-year anniversary, Vitor Caldeira said the results of last month’s European elections underlined the public’s perceptions of weak accountability in the EU.

‘It is not a new problem. But since the financial and economic crisis began, it has become steadily more important,’ he said.

‘As public finances have deteriorated, the trust and confidence of citizens in their governing institutions, both European and national, has fallen.’

He noted that the EU budget represented a major source of investment for many member states, yet not all the funds in the budget were spent or spent well.

Cooperation between supreme audit institutions (SAIs) was vital boosting public confidence across the economic bloc, Caldeira argued.

‘The SAIs of the EU member states and the European Court of Auditors can work together to carry out audits which help member states’ authorities to get the most out of the funds available in the EU budget,’ he said.

‘And we can help EU and national authorities to answer citizens’ legitimate questions about what EU funds are spent on, whether those funds are being used lawfully, and whether they provide value for money.’

Through the contact committee of the ECA and heads of SAIs, two taskforces have been established to improve aspects of current arrangements, Caldeira said.

The first of these is examining the European Commission’s proposals to introduce European Public Sector Accounting Standards, while the second is looking at the role of external public audit in the light of recent developments in the economic governance of the EU.

Elsewhere in his speech, Caldeira noted that the task of holding governments to account was becoming more demanding as public service delivery had become more complex and diverse.

‘As government and public finance have become more complex, the task of auditing those activities has become even more demanding,’ he said.

‘Here again cooperation between SAIs has been – and will certainly continue to be – key to addressing this challenge.’



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