The European Union’s auditors have accused United Nations organisations of obstructing attempts to verify what happens to money that they receive from the EU.
In a report published yesterday (13 January), the European Court of Auditors said that the EU had insufficient information on what happens to aid and development money channelled through United Nations agencies, which amounted to more than €1 billion in 2008, not including programme funding and mandatory contributions by individual EU member states.
The UN argues that its normal auditing arrangements are sufficient and that, according to the principle of ‘single audit’, donors such as the EU should not be allowed to conduct their own audits of UN-implemented projects. Under a 2003 agreement between the UN and the European Commission, the Commission does, however, have the right to verify operations implemented with EU money.
But the auditors complain that their own efforts to verify the use of EU money were hampered by “inadequate co-operation by UN organisations”. It said that the Commission too had been given only restricted access to information. EuropeAid’s verification of a UN organisation’s polio eradication programme was not allowed to take copies of documents. When the emergency aid department, ECHO, had tried to verify projects in Uganda, it was obstructed by the headquarters of one of the organisations.
In its reply to the auditors’ report, the Commission suggests that co-operation on verification is improving and promises that it will support the auditors’ request for access.
The auditors criticised the Commission for failing to assess, before taking a funding decision, whether channelling assistance through the UN was the most effective or efficient way to deliver aid.
They also complained that the UN’s own reports on implementation of projects were frequently late and inadequate.
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