EU pours €7bn down drain on ineligible or illegal projects
The EU wasted about €7bn last year on fraudulent, illegal or ineligible spending projects, auditors have found.
The EU misspent almost 5pc of its budget in 2012, as its accounts failed to receive a clean bill of health for the 19th year in a row. The so-called error rate in Brussels spending was up from 3.9pc the previous year, according to the auditors.
EU bureaucrats were accused of "shambolic" mismanagement in the wake of the report, with a UK MEP suggesting it appeared as though Brussels had a licence to "carry on squandering". The European Court of Auditors found that €6.8bn of the EU's €140bn budget was spent in error on projects that were either tainted by fraud or ineligible for grants under Brussels rules.
This meant the UK saw up to £832m in EU contributions wasted. A British government spokesman said: "When countries across Europe are taking difficult decisions to tackle their deficits, Europe's taxpayers need to have confidence that every effort is being made to improve the way EU spending is managed."
In one case the auditors found a Polish farmer was paid almost £80,000 a year to maintain 350 acres of grassland for the protection of endangered birds, when he had only met requirements for 14pc of the money.
In another case, the European Commission paid £14m in support of female teachers in rural Bangladesh but more than half the money was given with "no documentation".
UK MEP Philip Bradbourn said: "If you found misappropriation and misspending on this scale in a commercial business or in a properly accountable public administration, there would be sackings all round."
(© Daily, Telegraph, London)