quarta-feira, novembro 19, 2003
EU auditors blast budget failings
The European Union is failing to keep track of huge annual subsidies, and 91 per cent of its budget is riddled with errors or cannot be verified, a financial watchdog said yesterday.
The European Court of Auditors refused to certify EU accounts for the ninth successive year, saying Brussels has failed to match reform rhetoric with a genuine change of culture. Abuse is said to be endemic in the Common Agricultural Policy, which still consumes almost half the £65 billion budget.
Checks on subsidy claims for suckler cows found that 50.2 per cent of animals in Portugal and 31.2 per cent in Italy were false. The "error rate" in forage and crop acreage was 89.7 per cent in Luxembourg, 42.9 per cent in Sweden, 34.5 per cent in France and 19.2 per cent in Britain, despite increased use of satellite photography to spot fraud.
The court said it was almost impossible to track funds once they had been handed over to member states, which administer 80 per cent of the budget. Money also disappears into Russia, Central Asia, the Balkans and developing countries.
Budget controls in Brussels itself are criticised. The report says the European Commission has still not switched to the sort of modern accounting system used by the British Government and World Bank, making it impossible to know if transactions have been "fully and correctly recorded".
The court suggested that EU staff were abusing the disability system on a large scale, costing taxpayers £54 million a year. Half the claimants had psychological or stress-related complaints. A court official said: "These are not coal miners or deep-sea fishermen. It's not normal for so many to retire for ill-health."
Most of the invalids are in their 30s or 40s, securing life-time pensions worth 70 per cent of the final retirement-age salaries.
The court also accused Euro-MPs of padding their pension funds with subsidies from the taxpayer. At present, the European Parliament pays two thirds of the pension cost, with the rest often paid from an MEP's office allowance - another perk worth £120,000 a year. British Euro-MPs are said to be leading culprits in using the fund to employ spouses and children as aides. They also receive a tax-free attendance fee of £160 a day in Brussels and Strasbourg, and are reimbursed for full business air fares on a mileage basis, even if they take cheap flights.
posted by Miguel Noronha 2:08 da tarde
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