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Step up in fight against EU budget fraud - 03/10/2011

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Better monitoring is finding more cases of EU funding misuse, including fraud. This means more money is being recovered for programmes intended for citizens.

EU governments and the Commission share responsibility for protecting taxpayers' money from misuse. They do so by sharing information, recovering funds and prosecuting fraudsters.

This oversight of the EU budget is constantly being improved. Last year, a new online reporting system was put in place and has already yielded results: reports of misused funds increased in 2010.

Better detection means more money can be recovered for the EU budget – about €825m of the €1.8bn (€1.5bn in 2009) of EU funds misused in 2010 has been reclaimed so far according to the latest annual report .

It also means the Commission and governments can identify problems faster and prevent fraud from happening in the first place.

Many cases occur when beneficiaries either make honest mistakes or break EU rules and receive more money than they should. They may have over‑claimed for hours worked on a project or broken tendering rules, for example. Other misuses are due to fraud – a criminal offence.

In all cases, the EU works to recover the money and learns from experience. New measures under consideration include:

  • improving procedures – making it easier to detect and prosecute fraudsters by extending information exchanges among police, customs, tax authorities, the judiciary and other authorities
  • clarifying criminal law and national rules – different definitions of offences such as embezzlement or abuse of power across the EU are leading to very low conviction rates in some countries (the rates vary from 14% to 80% for EU budget fraud)
  • strengthening the role of EU anti-fraud bodies – by making the European Anti-Fraud Office and Eurojust more effective in carrying out investigations.

The Commission is considering the creation of a specialised European public prosecutor's office, which would apply common rules on fraud and other offences.

EU countries also need to use the current detection and reporting system more effectively. In particular, Spain, France and Ireland need to complete the implementation of a new online reporting system, which began operating last year.

EU countries manage almost 80% of the EU's annual budget and the Commission the rest.

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