What happens to our money?

EU auditors criticise Commission and UN for insufficient monitoring of development assistance projects

The European Court of Auditors is accusing the United Nations organisations of obstructing attempts to verify what happens to aid and development money channeled through United Nations agencies. Including program funding and mandatory contributions by individual EU member states, at stake there are more than €1 billion in 2008 .

The querelle might grow harsher, for the UN is refusing to accept the right of the European Union to conduct their own audits on UN-implemented projects: that is, according to the heads of the New York-based global organization, a donor should not be allowed to understand how their money is being spent.

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.

EU auditors complain their own efforts to verify the use of money contributed by the European Union or its individual Member States have been hampered by “inadequate co-operation by UN organisations”, and their access to information was limited and restricted. Verification of a UN organisation’s polio eradication program was not allowed, as auditors could not 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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