By Kevin Holland
The European Court of Auditors has released a new report claiming the EU lost more than $10bn to fraud between 2002 and 2017, with little effective action from authorities.
The report claims as little as 2.6bn EUR was recovered judging by investigations by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office.
According to OLAF out of the 541 cases in question just 308 went to court, and just 137 resulted in indictments.
The report goes on to say that fraud is significantly under-reported and so the actual figures in question are likely much higher.
The current floor level for monitoring EU payments is 10,000 EUR but many of the projects known to be most at risk from fraud involve payments of less than this amount. The EU needs to act here.
There is already an option for states to bar fraudsters from EU contracts using EDES, an EU database. Between 2016-2018, however, the European Commission had used it to ban just 19 operators despite there being 820 suspected EU fraud cases in 2016 alone.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office will begin operating in 2021 and will be tasked with prosecuting crimes against the EU’s financial interests. Underneath it will sit regional European Delegated Prosecutors.
As so often, the concern remains that the EU simply isn’t giving the issue the resources and infrastructure it requires.