Today I’m in Reading for the management board meeting of the body that coordinates CAP paying agencies across the UK.
I expect it sounds as if government officials are always moaning about the amount of auditing that the CAP is subject to, and how it limits our room for manoeuvre and ability to apply common sense. We’re not making it up, as the papers for today’s meeting confirm.
The annual report for 2011/12 says that during the year the UK had 6 audit visits by the European Commission plus another 10 from the European Court of Auditors. That’s more than one a month on average. And the forward work plan shows that it could get even worse.
Member States regularly tell the Commission that the penalties it imposes are excessive. If a Member State fails to protect taxpayers’ money adequately then a penalty is fair enough, but too often the penalty is disproportionate to the amount of money actually put at risk.
The Commission’s answer is to say that if we can prove how little money was at risk, then they might reduce the penalties. And the way to prove it is – wait for it – more in-depth audits!
It might be laughable were it not so serious. Of course Member States will resist this. It’s not one of the most visible battlegrounds in the CAP negotiations, but it’s a really important one.