EU auditors plan to review EU’s response to COVID-19

EU auditors plan to review EU’s response to COVID-19
Credit: ECA

The European Court of Auditors announced yesterday that it has updated its 2020 work programme to shift focus of its work towards COVID-19-related aspects.

Two new review tasks have been front-loaded to its 2020 work programme as high priority tasks and are currently planned by the end of the year. The aim of both reviews is to contribute to the public discussion on how the EU and its member states have dealt with the effects of the pandemic.

In addition, they are expected to contribute to the lessons-learned exercise and the debate on the role of the EU during this and future crises.

“The EU’s response is already under the spotlight, with tensions between EU legal responsibilities and public expectations, as well as the certainty of intense political discussions at the highest level,” according to the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

In a review of the public health response to COVID-19, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) will look at the reactions taken and resources used by the Commission and EU agencies to protect the public’s health in response to the pandemic.

The other review will deal with the economic response and focus on measures and challenges in the context of EU economic coordination. It will reflect their costs and governance arrangements, as well as mapping the risks and opportunities for the future of EU fiscal and economic coordination.

“The European Commission and other EU and national bodies responsible for implementing EU policies and programmes are still operating in crisis mode. We understand their current constraints in dealing with audits and our auditors will take every care not to overburden them and compromise their pressing work in responding to the crisis,” said ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne (28 May).

In ECA’s 2019 annual activity report, the ECA president wrote that the EU and its member states are facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s more crucial than ever that the Union delivers, and in helping citizens to overcome this crisis demonstrates the added value of European cooperation and solidarity.”

The two reviews will serve as preparations of full performance audits with findings, conclusions and recommendations. An ECA spokesperson told the Brussels Times that they will give a descriptive overview of the facts in the respective area and an informative assessment of financial management, governance, transparency and accountability issues.

The 2020 programme includes also a number of on-going tasks that are related to different aspects of the post-corona crisis and are planned to be completed during 2020. Among the priority areas in the programme are the sustainable use of natural resources, addressing climate change, and investment for cohesion, growth and inclusion.

As a reminder to ECA of EU citizens’ expectations, the European Parliament published this week (26 May) the preliminary results of a new survey on how the crisis has affected citizens. The survey was conducted online between 23 April and 1 May 2020, among 21,804 respondents in 21 EU Member States (not covered: Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg).

According to the results, a majority of the respondents (69%) want a stronger role for the EU in fighting the coronavirus crisis. In most countries, majorities agree that the EU should have more competences to deal with such crises. In parallel, almost six out of ten respondents are also dissatisfied with the solidarity shown between EU member states during the pandemic.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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