14 May 2004
Auditor-general Sir John Bourn has backed the European Court of Auditors in its view that the timetable for reform of the European Union's accounting procedures is over-ambitious.
In a report on May 6 on the work of the Court, Bourn pledged that the National Audit Office would continue to work closely with EU audit offices to cut down fraud and protect funds.
He said: 'It is a matter of concern that, for the ninth year in succession, the Court of Auditors has qualified its opinion on the reliability of the accounts. I endorse the court's view that this situation is unlikely to improve until the commission has completed the reform of its accounting procedures and IT systems.'
The European Commission has set the commissioner in charge of reform, Neil Kinnock, the task of moving to an accruals-based accounting system. But the auditors' report describes the aim for the full system to be introduced by January 1, 2005 as 'over-ambitious'.
In 2002, more than 10,000 cases of irregularity and fraud were reported to the European Anti-Fraud Office, with a value of £700m, a rise of 96% on 2001.