About 1.4 per cent of EU research funding was misspent in 2010, the European Court of Auditors has found.
Last year’s error rate was 3.2 per cent, way above the maximum error threshold of 2 per cent. But the two figures cannot be compared directly because the Court of Auditors changed the composition of its policy groups. In 2009, research was still grouped with energy and transport, but now it is calculated under the heading “Research and Other Internal policies”, together with education, information society or enterprise.
Errors occurred mostly when the European Commission reimbursed costs that are not eligible or not calculated correctly.
The Court of Auditors says that the Commission’s control systems are only “partially effective”. In particular, ex-ante certificates delivered by external auditors are not reliable enough to spot high-risk payments in time.
According to the annual report of the Luxembourg-based auditors, presented on 10 November, the spending chapter “research and other internal policies” was worth a total of €9 billion in 2010.
On the whole, research accounts appear more reliable than other areas of EU spending. Cohesion, energy and transport were the worst offenders in 2010, with an estimated error rate of 7.7 per cent.
Cohesion funding includes structural funds used for research infrastructures, which are managed by national governments.