This month, the Court of Auditors published the results of its audit of the EU for 2014. The audit found errors in payments made of 4.4%, compared with 4.5% in the previous two years. The target for expenditure errors is 2%, so the pressure of auditing will continue.
While the report does not include separate figures for the research programmes (FP7 and H2020) they constitute 61% of the expenditure in the budget category “Competitiveness and growth for jobs”, where errors increased from 4% in 2013 to 5.6% in 2014. The large error rate here is attributed to the use of eligible costs as the basis for grants. The Court of Auditors thinks this can be overcome by switching to “entitlement” funding, such as that used for PhD students under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme (MSCA), where each month they work triggers the payment of a set amount of money, without reference to the actual costs incurred.
Interestingly, MSCA grants are considered generous by many universities. So what happened to the principle of sound financial management, in particular regarding economy and efficiency?