European Union and European Court of Auditors

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The German SAI looks back on many years of closely working together with the EU member states’ supreme audit institutions (EU SAIs) and the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

All SAIs work together as equals

The predominant goal is to ensure that EU funds are spent properly and efficiently. Since these funds are first and foremost spent by the member states, and not directly by the EU Commission, it goes without saying that the ECA needs to exchange information with all 27 EU SAIs. For example, the ECA provides information to EU SAIs about the audits it performed in the respective member states. The EU SAIs may then decide as to whether, and in which form, they take an active part in the ECA’s audit work. There is no relationship of inequality or subordination, all SAIs work together as equals – or, as Union Law puts it (Art. 287 para. 3 sentence 3 TFEU): … “while maintaining their independence”.

All SAIs exchange information on a regular basis

At regular intervals, the ECA and the EU SAIs share views and information on general and specific aspects of government audit at EU level. The Contact Committee of the heads of EU SAIs and ECA meets at least once per year. In addition to that, there are numerous other lower-level forums in which two or more auditors of EU SAIs and ECA come together to discuss matters of common interest, such as audit strategies, techniques and procedures. The aim is to enhance the individual SAI’s performance, but also to plan and carry out joint or parallel audits targeting areas under EU regulation and financed by the EU.

All SAIs increasingly focus on European issues

Short of traditional areas of interest such as agriculture and structural funds assistance, the SAIs more and more focus on other major EU-related issues – for example, the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic; euro area stabilisation; energy and climate; digitisation; and, above all, the combat against organised intra-community tax fraud, in particular value-added tax carousel fraud and e-commerce fraud.

German SAI supports other SAIs

For many decades, the German SAI has supported other SAIs in capacity building and adapting to applicable institutional standards (Declaration of Lima and Mexico Declaration). In the 2000s, our efforts for the most part aimed at SAIs of east and central European states that sought accession to the EU. In recent years, we have also assisted the SAIs of other countries, which the EU for strategic reasons wished to be closely associated to the EU through association and assistance programmes, in creating key public bodies and independent supervisory structures.