For the European Commission, it is a priority to make sure that every euro from the budget is spent in line with the rules and generates added value.
The European Commission works closely with Member States and with the other EU institutions towards this objective. EU Member States have a key role to play as they manage, together with the European Commission, around 3/4 of the budget under the shared management principle. This means that Member States distribute the funds to beneficiaries. They are therefore in the front line to make sure the budget goes where it is needed, by setting up the relevant management and control systems.
The Commission conducts ex-ante controls, audits and on-the-spot checks to make sure such procedures exist and they are carried out in the right way. If the Commission finds out that something is going wrong, it can intervene by interrupting or suspending payments to beneficiaries or Member States. This means temporarily stopping payment of EU funds, until the problems detected have been resolved. This is a preventive action.
The Commission can also take action after the payments have been made. If the Commission spots that something is going wrong at a later stage, the Commission can introduce financial corrections and recover the money already paid.
In case of fraud, the European anti-fraud office – known by its French acronym OLAF - steps in. If an OLAF investigation confirms there has been fraud with EU money, the Commission starts working to recover the funds.
Since 2020, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office works to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgement crimes against the EU budget. Its work is an additional guarantee that the EU budget is fully protected.