On Monday, I held an exchange of views with the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee on the European Commission Budget Discharge 2013, in the presence of a member of the European Court of Auditors.
Although this was technically called "an exchange of views", in our preparatory meetings we kept calling it "hearing" because it felt more like it. Both me and my colleagues from the Directorate General agree that coming in front of the European Parliament to account for how almost a fourth of the EU budget is spent is probably one of the most important duties for a member of the European Commission.
I put a lot of work in preparing for this hearing because I strongly feel that both the Members of the EP and the citizens of the EU deserve serious answers to their questions. But also because, as a "rookie" Commissioner, I must confess that I was a bit intimidated by the prospect of this entire hearing.
And I must say that I was really heartened by the reaction I got both from the members of the Committee and from the Court of Auditors, who, I felt, responded in kind to the seriousness with which me and my colleagues have treated this hearing.
The annual discharge hearing in front of the European Parliament is an important event for a Commissioner in charge of a spending portfolio, like Regional Policy. We are responsible for the way in which the money under the Regional funds is spent. Every year, we have to come and defend our budget in front of the European Parliament, which assesses if the funds were correctly spent, on the basis of the annual report published by the European Court of Auditors.
Before the members of the Parliament, I affirmed my strong commitment to have zero tolerance to fraud and corruption against the EU money - the people's money! The Commission has implemented a solid and thorough audit strategy that allows us to take immediate action, as soon as we detect risks or deficiencies. I will work closely with the Member States' audit authorities in that direction, and will propose initiatives to improve administrative capacity and develop synergies and exchange of good practices between administrations at all levels.
During this hearing I committed myself to ensure the regularity and the performance of the funds that are under my responsibility; I will carry out this mission with utmost dedication, as it is the key to sound and efficient public investments which can have a real impact on the lives of people and on economic growth. And I will repeat this commitment, year after year.
I want to thank my colleagues in the Audit Unit for their efforts and dedication, the Court of Auditors for their thorough examination and the Members of the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee for the trust and credit that they extended to me and to my team.