Richard North, 16/11/2004  

The European Court of Auditors has, for the tenth year running, refused to sign off the EU's accounts, citing concerns about the accuracy of the records.

"Once again the Court has no reasonable assurance that the supervisory systems and controls of significant areas of the budget are effectively implemented so as to manage the risks concerning the legality and regularity of the underlying operations," its report says.

"The Court's audit work has repeatedly shown that many irregularities occur in such expenditure… In the absence of effective internal control procedures ... the Court cannot be certain that the transactions ... have been correctly and completely recorded."

However, Chris Davies, leader of the British Liberal Democrat MEPs, pointed out that the financial irregularities related to spending by member states.

"For the first time the Court of Auditors has spelt out that the main problem of Europe's 'missing millions' lies not in Brussels but in the national capitals," he says. "Treasuries across Europe are responsible for 80 percent of funding in areas where they share administration with the EU."

"Taxpayers have a right to know that their money is being spent properly, but with accounting improvements in hand it’s time that the European Commission stopped allowing itself to be treated as a punchbag for eurosceptics and hit back."

It's always nice to see a Lib-Dim missing the point. The commission may be in the clear but the system it administers is not. Any system which is so constructed that its auditors routinely cannot certify the accounts has to be a tad flawed.

And this, we are told – just in case you had forgotten – is what the "Vote No" campaign is in favour of.

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