EU auditors demand access to European Central Bank documents

16 Jan 19

The European Central Bank should allow auditors full access to documents related to banking supervision, the EU’s spending watchdog has said.

In a letter to the European Parliament, the European Court of Auditors expressed concern over the bank’s position regarding documents and information, which auditors say prevents them from carrying out their work “properly”.

The auditors called for the European Parliament and Council to support auditors’ rights to access such documents and, if necessary, amend the current regulations, clarifying that they can access papers they consider necessary when carrying out their audits.

The ECB is responsible for the supervision of large banks in the euro area member states since the Single Supervisory Mechanism came into force in 2014.

President of the ECA Klaus-Heiner Lehne said: “We are not seeking to audit monetary policy.

“But it is essential that we have full powers to audit the ECB’s supervisory activities. This is particularly important given the high risks to public funds from banking failures and the complexity of the new supervisory mechanism.”

In a 2016 audit of the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the ECA faced difficulties obtaining audit evidence, it said. The ECA is mandated to conduct independent external audits of the ECB.

Again, last year, the ECA reported on the ECB’s crisis management role in relation to banking supervision but was denied access to the documents needed to carry out the audit work as initially planned.

The European Parliament has previously acknowledged the problem and concluded it was “unacceptable from an accountability point of view” for the bank to decide which documents auditors would have access to, the letter highlighted.

The bank has argued that it was not in position to provide certain information to the auditors due to its confidentiality requirements, the letter said.

The letter follows a call in November last year by the heads of the supreme audit institutions of the EU and its member states to clarify the audit mandates of national SAIs.

The letter said accountability was particularly important in banking supervision.

“Risks materialising in this area can endanger the stability of financial systems and the single market,” it said.

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