Poor financial management in the European Commission has led the European Court of Auditors to qualify its opinion on the reliability of the EC's accounts for the eighth successive year.
Ongoing weaknesses in the commission's accounting frameworks--particularly the dearth of reliable information on assets and the absence of a single integrated computerised system to generate all the figures for the annual statements--were cited as the main problems.
"My report draws attention to continuing problems in the management of funds; said Sir John Bourn, head of the UK's National Audit Office, who wrote the English-language version of the court's report. "It is a matter of concern that, for the eighth year in succession, the Court of Auditors has qualified its opinion on the accounts. The EC should take urgent, in-depth action to deal with the persistent weaknesses in its system:
But the situation is likely to worsen when the 10 countries that are due to become member states of the European Union join up on 1 May 2004. Although these countries have discussed financial control with the commission, urgent reforms are needed to meet the EC's accepted standard, according to Bourn.
The European Court of Auditors' report did recognise that progress had been made in implementing the financial management reforms announced in March 2000. These included the introduction of individual declarations by the EC's directors-general (the heads of the main administrative units) on the reliability of the financial controls in their areas. The court saw this as "an...