EU Court of Auditors scolds Italy: Thousands of experts paid by Brussels but 80 are missing

More errors than last year and at least 14 possible frauds in European money spent by member states. This is what the European Court of Auditors reveals in its annual report on the 2022 EU budget: The increase in spending errors is serious, considering that it increased from 3 percent in 2021 to 4.2 percent. We are talking about a total of 196 billion euros. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of audited expenditures are “high risk.” In numbers, the risk concerns 129.3 billion Euros. Italy is also among the countries “rebuked” by judges for charging money to employ experts, but there has been a “decline” in hiring numbers as the target set by Brussels has been met.

Related and common mistakes

While the revenues may be considered error-free, the audit gives a negative opinion on the expenditure by Member States, where the level of error is described as “material and widespread”. The Court of Auditors reported that there were problems and weaknesses in the control systems of the bloc countries; These problems are also reflected in the 46.9 billion euros spent under the Recovery Fund (Pnrr). In addition to financial resources not being used in accordance with national and EU rules, 14 cases of suspected fraud were also identified. Judges reported these people to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which has already launched an investigation against two people. Instead, six were reported to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which launched three investigations.

Most frequently committed crimes

The most frequently reported fraudulent acts or allegations of crimes are: Artificial creation of conditions necessary to obtain EU funding and use of grants for unauthorized purposes. Judges also reported irregularities in tenders, as well as expenditure declarations that did not meet the eligibility criteria. Based on the information provided and following the closure of the investigations, OLAF recommended the recovery of €541.8 million. Losses due to inflation Then there is an investigation into inflation. Based on European Commission forecasts, we estimate that the EU budget could lose almost 10% of its purchasing power by 2023. The exposure of the EU budget to potential future liabilities increased to 248.3 billion euros at the end of 2022 (about 204.9 billion euros in 2021). This is partly due to financial aid to Ukraine, which has more than doubled in 2022 to 16 billion euros compared to 7 billion euros the previous year. Another aspect that also affects the financial risk of future EU budgets was the last minute approval of another 18 billion euros at the end of 2022.

Missing experts

The investigation focused on the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, through which Brussels has generously pumped member states’ coffers to help them recover from the pandemic and support the European energy transition. In 2022, the European administration made 13 grant payments to member states related to 274 “targets” in total, in addition to the 37 targets set by Brussels. In total, it was 53.7 billion euros. According to judges who reviewed 11 payments, six of them were affected by “material errors”. Among the cases mentioned is Italy, regarding the goal of “completing the recruitment of experts for the implementation of Pnrr”. Rome was required to complete procedures for the recruitment of a pool of one thousand experts to be appointed for three years to support administrations in managing new procedures for the provision of technical assistance. Upon the submission of the first payment request in December 2021, Italian authorities announced the recruitment of a thousand experts.

The Commission considered that the target had been satisfactorily achieved by making the payment on 13 April 2022. When Brussels conducted an ex post audit in May-June 2022, it found that the expert pool had fallen to 935 units in June 2022, without any changes. however, it reports that the target has “reverted” and proceeds to make the second payment on November 8, 2022, when there are only 924 experts in the pool. Therefore, Italy received the money despite failing to maintain a goal that was believed to have already been achieved. “The judges wrote that, during an on-site inspection carried out in February 2023, the Court’s auditors found that the pool of experts had been further reduced to a further 920 units. “The workforce may fluctuate within a reasonable range, and although the Member State has introduced procedures to fill vacancies, the Court in this case has a permanent position that has not been corrected for almost a year. detects a downward trend,” the judges concluded.

Source: Today IT