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Lusa - Business News - EU/Presidency: 'Zero tolerance' for fund fraud, irregularities - Elisa Ferreira

Lisbon, June.21,2021(Lusa) - The European Commission will have "zero tolerance" for fraud and "irregularities" in the use of European funds by the 27 member states, Commissioner Elisa Ferreira said on Monday.

"We have zero tolerance for fraud, but also non-compliance", the Commissioner stressed, guaranteeing that the EU will pay "extra attention" to the use of national Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRP) and the Union's long-term budget, the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

The head of Cohesion and Reforms was speaking at a conference on "European Funds: Management, Control and Accountability", organised in Lisbon by the Portuguese and European Court of Auditors, at which she explained how the Union would monitor the management of European funds to combat possible fraud.

"We have a machine set up, which has proved itself, and which is a partnership with the countries because it would be unthinkable that at the level of the European Commission control would be carried out without cooperation," the European Commissioner pointed out, adding that this cooperation "works very well and has done so for many years."

This partnership between the European Commission and the member states "has several levels", she explained, starting with "a management unit for structural funds", in which the 27 and the European executive "will draw the maturity and experience to manage the RRPs".

In the case of Portugal, Brussels is counting on the management of the Agency for Development and Cohesion, under the ministry of planning, which has "a strong team" and which, in the Commissioner's view, "seems the appropriate structure" for this purpose.

"There is then the level of monitoring of the Court of Auditors itself, but also of the Inspectorate General of Finance," continued Elisa Ferreira, also recalling "the audit teams of the European Commission," in addition to "independent auditors within the next structure of the Commission."

Finally, the management of European funds also relies on "a specific committee of the European Parliament", said the Commissioner.

In her view, "this exercise must be carried out with rigour and the seriousness imposed by the collective responsibility that the management of taxpayers' money imposes".

The objective of "zero fraud" is, however, "very demanding", stressed the Commissioner, pointing to the aspects that "are more difficult to monitor" in this process.

"It is one thing to measure kilometres of motorway, but quite another to assess the quality of training," she said.

Because of this monitoring difficulty, the European Commission hopes to take advantage of "all the capacity that the digital world offers" in this sense, explained Elisa Ferreira, pointing to the computer tool ARACHNE, created by the Community executive to support the authorities in the management of structural funds, such as the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

With the use of digital capabilities, the European Commission will obtain information on "who is the ultimate beneficiary" of European funds, and "to what extent there is or is not a conflict of interests", a situation that the Commissioner described as "absolutely intolerable".



Agency : LUSA

Date : 2021-06-22 10:26:00


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