For the European Commission, it is a priority to make sure that every euro from the budget is well spent, in line with the rules and generating added value.
The European Commission works closely towards this objective with Member States, with the other EU institutions and with the implementing partners such as international institutions (e.g. World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). EU Member States have a key role to play as they manage, together with the European Commission, around 3/4 of the budget under the shared management principle. This means that Member States distribute the funds to beneficiaries. They are therefore in the front line to make sure the budget goes where it is needed, by setting up the relevant management and control systems.
The Commission conducts ex-ante controls, audits and on-the-spot checks to make sure such procedures exist and they are carried out in the right way. If the Commission finds out that something is going wrong, it can intervene by interrupting or suspending payments to beneficiaries or Member States. This means temporarily stopping payment of EU funds, until the problems detected have been resolved. The Commission can also reduce the amount it will pay compared to the cost claim received from the beneficiary. These are preventive actions.
Detection and correction
The Commission can also take action after the payments have been made. Based on ex-post controls, audits and on-the-spot checks, where it spots that something is going wrong at a later stage, the Commission can introduce financial corrections and recover the money already paid.
In case of fraud, the European anti-fraud office – known by its French acronym OLAF - steps in. If an OLAF investigation confirms there has been fraud with EU money, the Commission starts working to recover the funds.
Since 2020, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office works to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgement crimes against the EU budget. Its work is an additional guarantee that the EU budget is fully protected.