Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud
Council recommendations for the 2005 budget discharge
Brussels, 27 th February 2007
Thank you, Mr President. The Commission very much welcomes the Council proposal to recommend that Parliament grant the discharge for the 2005 financial year.
We agree with many of the Council's recommendations and will respond.
However, as we all know, granting discharge does not mean that our work is done. I would like to briefly highlight three topics for further work :
-First, we will continue work to improve assurance in order to make "Single Audit" more than just a nice theoretical framework. In the Commission, we will do a more thorough analysis of the issues leading to reserves in the declarations of the Directors-General. Depending on the importance of the problems and the risks identified we will, if necessary, suspend payments or apply financial corrections. In doing so, the Commission will be informed by the national summaries of available audits and declarations, which the Financial Regulation will now require Member States to provide us with. To put it very bluntly, we need to strengthen the link between having reasonable assurance and making payments or not.
-Second, I sent you earlier this month the Commission's summary report of Member States' replies to the Court of Auditors' 2005 Annual Report. Your reactions to the Court's 2005 report raise important issues for the discharge procedure. For instance, the analysis shows that even when you comply with the minimum requirements of the legislation in force, such as undertaking the required percentage of audits, the Court may still find errors that lead to a qualified statement of assurance. This means compliance with the minimum rules is no guarantee for a positive DAS and that our discussion on the level of tolerable risk remains relevant.
-Third, as your comments on the Court's 2005 report also reveal, the strictly annual nature of this exercise may lead to overestimation of the actual financial impact of errors. The Commission is discussing this with the Court in order to hopefully reach a common understanding. We are also discussing with the Court how to improve the audit process itself.
These are just highlights of the "to-do-list". Early March, I will send you a progress report on the action plan towards an integrated internal control framework. I hope to have a more detailed discussion with Council on that basis.
Mr President, let me stop here and leave you with one thought for political consideration. There is a strong interest in the European Parliament and in some Member States to move towards a more specific declaration of assurance, per sector and per Member State. This would certainly be more useful to the Commission than the current DAS, and we're ready to provide the necessary input for such a more differentiated DAS. I would welcome hearing the views of Council on this point.
Thank you for your attention.