Slovakia reported the highest financial impact of irregularities in drawing EU funds

The OLAF statistics suggests that the irregularities in the past five years concerned nearly 20 percent of all EU payments.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

Slovakia recorded an uncomplimentary lead in one of the statistics published by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). It reports the highest financial impact of irregularities in drawing EU funds, which has been the highest in five years, the Euractiv.sk website reported.

OLAF detected 1,649 fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities in the areas of European Structural and Investment Funds and Agriculture for the 2014-2018 period. Their financial impact was as high as 19.29 percent of all payments, as stems from OLAF 2018 report.

To compare, the second highest financial impact was reported by Spain: 3.30 percent. The local authorities detected 10,995 irregularities, which is the most in the EU. Spain is followed by Romania (3.23 percent) and the Czech Republic (2.84 percent).

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The report shows that OLAF closed 14 investigations in Slovakia in the past five years, and recommended the authorities to claim 2.29 percent of the paid amount to be returned.

Problems in public procurement

“Irregularity” is defined as any infringement of a provision of Community law resulting from an act or omission by an economic operator, which has, or would have, the effect of prejudicing the general budget of the Communities or budgets managed by them, either by reducing or losing revenue accruing from its own resources collected directly on behalf of the Communities, or by an unjustified item of expenditure.

The irregularities are not revealed by OLAF investigators, but national authorities in the member states, usually the ministries and other national control bodies that oversee the operational programmes. Drawing EU funds falls under the audit of the Financial Ministry and the European Commission.

OLAF then receives the information about irregularities from the Central Contact Point for OLAF (OCKÚ), running under the Government’s Office.

The member states must report any irregularities exceeding €10,000 that do not fall under the exceptions, Euractiv.sk wrote.

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Slovakia reports an increasing number of irregularities. The errors revealed by the national authorities between 2013 and 2017 represented 11.39 percent of all payments.

Since the total number of reported cases was higher in the last year’s report (1,672), it means that this time the irregularities were revealed in bigger projects, Euractiv.sk wrote.

The results do not say whether the irregularities were caused by corruption or administrative mistakes. The OCKÚ report shows that the irregularities concerned mostly insufficient administrative controls and public procurement, Euractiv.sk reported.

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