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ECA: Weakness of the EU public procurement in the pandemic

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ECA: Weakness of the EU public procurement in the pandemic

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According to the European Court of Auditors, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) judged that the European Union's agencies had kept their accounts correctly in the financial year 2020, adjusting their activities smoothly during the pandemic period.

According to the report, the auditors confirmed that the financial management of the organizations was in good condition in 2020 as in previous years.

Although it has been found that there are still weaknesses in the internal control valves in some of these organizations, the main cause of irregularities continues to be the weaknesses that exist in the procurement procedures.

Also, due to the pandemic in 2020, there has been no progress in terms of budget and human resource management.

The report covers 41 EU agencies and other institutions based in various Member States, including the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), Europol, Frontex, the European Medicines Agency (Coreper) and several other organizations covering various areas of cooperation.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) and the European Labor Authority (ELA) were not included in the audit for 2020 as they had not yet gained financial autonomy.

As noted by Alex Brenninkmeijer, ECA's overseer of the report, the pandemic posed particular challenges to EU agencies, as they operate under different national legislative and other frameworks and health measures.

“We have found, however, that the EU agencies have consistently adhered to their crisis management strategy, with the support of the European Commission and in coordination with the EU network of agencies,” he added.

In particular, the auditors examined the financial statements and reports on the implementation of the agencies' budget for 2020, as well as the legality and regularity of the transactions recorded in the accounts.

The auditors approved the payments of all the agencies in relation to the legality and regularity of the payments, with the exception of those of the Agency for Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) based in Ljubljana (Slovenia), the Agency for Management of Information Systems in the Area of Freedom , Security and Justice (eu-LISA) based in Tallinn (Estonia), and the Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) based in Athens (Greece).

In particular, in relation to the three agencies, the auditors expressed reservations “mainly due to irregularities in the procurement procedures and gaps in the process of devolution of responsibilities for the adoption of budget acts” as mentioned in the relevant announcement.

Regarding the deficiencies identified by the auditors, 54 deficiencies were recorded for 2020, compared to 82 for the financial year 2019. They mainly concerned internal controls, public procurement procedures, human resource management and budget management.

In particular with regard to the budget, the deficiencies related to issues included mismanagement of fees, late payments, incorrect reporting of contributions received and incorrect calculation of contributions from third countries to the agencies' budgets. The auditors also point out that “excessive transfer of appropriations from one financial year to the next may indicate not only delays in the implementation of work programs or contract plans, but also structural problems or weaknesses in budget planning.”

In relation to the award of public contracts, the main source of irregular payments, the auditors note that “some of the contracts audited showed weaknesses, mainly in terms of lack of competition, weaknesses in the bid evaluation process and problems with the performance of contracts” and are seeking assistance. the bodies' internal safeguards, especially before the acts are approved.

The auditors also evaluated how the agencies handled the effects of the pandemic, examining operational continuity and decision-making capacity, and concluded that the agencies acted appropriately, redefined their priorities, and continued to fulfill their mission even more slowly.

As noted, the most notable examples “are to be found in the field of health policy, as the EU's pandemic response is now a major concern of the EU Stakeholders (ECDC, EMA)”.

Source: www.philenews.com

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