Activities in the context of the EU
In the European and international context, the issues of mixed funding, common institutions and the interconnectedness of public funds require a comprehensive approach and uniform external public auditing. This cannot be achieved by separation, but only by networking and cooperation, for example by conducting ECA support audits, auditing international organisations or by coordinated audits with other supreme audit institutions in the areas of finance, environment and infrastructure.
As a member of and net contributor to the EU, the Republic of Austria has a vital interest in ensuring that the community funds, approximately EUR 900 billion for the period from 2007 to 2013, are correctly administered and efficiently used. Since the accession of Austria to the EU in 1995, the ACA has cooperated with the ECA on the basis of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union in a spirit of partnership and trust, whilst maintaining its independence.
The ACA is an institution of external public auditing to protect the financial interests of the community, acting independently from government or administration. Therefore, it aims at improving the quality of internal and external auditing of EU funds by - if need be, even cross-border coordinated - auditing of the administration of EU funds, in order to guarantee the reliability of accounting, the legality and correctness of all underlying processes, as well as to increase the economic efficiency and effectiveness of EU fund use.
It therefore follows the approach of
- examining the effectiveness and economic efficiency of the administration of EU funds;
- scrutinising the design and administration of spending regulations for programmes and measures;
- checking implementation aspects, such as project selection and tendering procedures, and
- identifying where rules can be simplified in terms of administration of EU funds, including follow-on cost estimation.
ECA support audits
Currently, the ACA does not have the authority to audit funds flowing outside the public budget, directly from the European Commission to individual recipients (so-called direct funding), as for example in the areas of research and development. Therefore, it continues pushing for direct funds to be included in its remit.
Contact Committee of the EU supreme audit institutions
The annual meeting of the heads of the SAIs of the EU member states and the ECA (contact committee) serves the purposes of exchange of experience and discussion on current issues of public auditing of EU funds. In the context of this meeting, the ACA actively promotes the interests of public auditing. On the initiative of the ACA, a debate on current (political) issues of EU auditing is to become a fixed item on the agenda of future committee sessions. This gives the contact committee the opportunity to work in a more flexible and networked way, e.g. regarding the formulation, acceptance and dissemination of common concerns and positions of EU-wide external public auditing.
EU Financial Report
1st January 2007 marked the beginning of a seven year financial period in the EU. The new budget should form the financial basis for the extended community of 27 member states. In the spring of 2007, the ACA has presented the EU financial report to the National Council and the regional parliaments for the first time. Since then, it has published such a report on an annual basis. The data used in the EU financial report are not taken from audits, but from available statistics and publications of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and the European Commission.
The ACA has published its position paper 2010/1 under the title "Current developments of financial control in the European Union: Reform of the EU Financial Regulation" and stated its position to the forthcoming reform plans on a European level. Background: the European Commission had submitted its proposals for a reform of the EU Financial Regulation on 28 May 2010. The new Financial Regulation should enter into force on 1st January 2012 at the latest, and the new control and auditing obligations of the member states on 1st January 2014. In its position paper, the ACA outlines the starting situation, describes the auditing system in the field of shared mangement as well as the measures to achieve an unqualified Statement of Assurance and makes proposals regarding the participation of the national parliament in the preparations in Austria for the negotiations on EU level about the future EU Financial Regulation.