26 Oct, 2023
The European Court of Auditors has issued another report on Recovery Funds. It has highlighted problems in identifying the final recipients of the money and the exact amounts they have received. Didn't we say the same thing at the very beginning of the introduction of this instrument? Yes, we did talk about it. Do we have satisfaction? No, because the system should have worked well from the start. But there is still a chance to get it right.
In its latest publication, the European Court of Auditors describes the challenges of evaluating the implementation of the RRF. It is a difficult task because "the auditors also found shortcomings, and stress that risks to data reliability remain, especially as regards those who ultimately receive funding." It is also problematic that "as the Commission does not collect data on money spent in the member states, its reporting on the RRF is currently based on estimates."
Reference was also made to the way in which the European Commission presents Recovery Plans progress data. "The recovery and resilience scoreboard, the Commission's tool for reporting on the implementation of the RRF, is user-friendly but is affected by data quality issues and lacks transparency in certain respects."
Among other things, the report calls on the Commission to "improve the transparency and quality of the data reported on the Scoreboard; and ensure more informative and consistent reporting that is aligned with all legal requirements."
We already highlighted these problems in June 2021, when we alerted that the reporting system does not impose an obligation to publish data on specific and actual spending. A few months later, we made our recommendations on the matter - they are all the more relevant after the European Court of Auditors' report. We examined earlier this year how Member States are dealing with transparency of their spending data. We pointed out not only that some of the data was missing, but also that there were big differences in what was published and how it was published.
This in turn also affects the ability to compare data between different countries and to assess the implementation of this financial instrument as a whole across the EU. We welcomed - albeit with a sense of dissatisfaction - the legal changes requiring countries to publish lists of the 100 largest recipients of funds. We are now looking at whether and how governments are implementing these obligations. We will soon release a report on this, but we can already write that there is a group of countries that unfortunately still do not publish such data.
It is clear what needs to be done and how - only the political will is missing.
We hope that this report of the European Court of Auditors, the report of the European Economic and Social Committee and paper published by the EU Ombudsman, which also drew attention to these challenges, will be taken into account by the Commission and the Council.
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