The Netherlands is the first Member State to give assurance on spending EU funds
The European Commission has warmly welcomed a voluntary national statement from the Dutch government on the financial control and regularity of EU funding in the Netherlands in 2006.
The statement was officially presented by Wouter Bos, the Dutch deputy prime minister and minister of finance, at a meeting with Siim Kallas, vice-president of the European Commission, responsible for administration, audit and anti-fraud.
“The European Commission encourages other Member States to follow the Dutch example and assume greater responsibility on how EU funds are spent in their countries”, said Siim Kallas. “More than three quarters of the whole EU budget is managed and spent by national and regional governments, and the national authorities are well placed to provide the necessary assurance on how this public money is spent”, he added.
National assurance necessary
The European Commission has long advocated the obligation for Member States to issue annually a national statement of assurance over how EU spending managed at national level is implemented and controlled. In past years the implementation of this part of the EU budget has remained a significant source of criticism from the European Court of Auditors and the European Parliament.
So far, only the Netherlands, the UK and Denmark have decided voluntarily to issue such national statements of assurance. Sweden is also considering the matter.
National statements would not only strengthen the responsibility and political ownership of EU funds at national level, but also improve their financial management, tighten controls and reduce the risk of irregularities.
The Dutch model
The Dutch national declaration is an annual statement from the minister of finance to the national parliament, and to the European Commission, on the extent to which the financial management of EU funds in the Netherlands is in order. It certifies whether these funds have been spent in accordance with EU regulations covering both the functioning of the control systems and the regularity of the payments.
The statement is fully objective: it is based on audit evidence and, if necessary, includes reservations. The statement will later this year be accompanied by a separate opinion of the Dutch Court of Audit. This is a copy of the opinion that will be drawn up for, and presented to, the Dutch parliament.
On the practical side, the overall statement is composed of sector-specific reports from the ministers responsible for the actual implementation of specific EU funds. The statement issued this year covers, as a start, the Agricultural Guarantee Fund for 2006. In following years, the statement will also extend to the management of the Structural Funds.
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