EU: Frontex: Parliament demands greater scrutiny of "financial management and internal controls"

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The EU's border agency Frontex has been criticised on numerous grounds by the European Court of Auditors, the institution responsible for "improving EU financial management, promot[ing] accountability and transparency, and act[ing] as the independent guardian of the financial interests of the citizens of the Union." The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee has echoed the Court's complaints.

The Court noted that in 2012:

"Expenditure related to grants amounted to 56 million euro, representing 63% of the total operating expenditure. In order to verify the expenditure claimed by beneficiaries [for example, Member States participating in Joint Operations] the Agency performs reasonableness checks prior to payment but does not usually request supporting documentation." [1]

While the agency adopted an "ex post audit strategy" in 2012, "no 2012 expenditure has yet been verified" and the Court found that it "could not obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence on the legality and regularity of the audited 2012 grant transactions."

In its response, attached to the Court of Auditors report, Frontex argued that:

"Bearing in mind that the Beneficiaries of Frontex are the national Border Guard authorities of the Member States and Schengen Associated Countries, they have to sign, when claiming for reimbursement, that all information provided is full, reliable and true; the Beneficiaries also need to certify that their request for payment is substantiated by adequate supporting documents."

A draft opinion of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, which has to approve the Court of Auditors' report, calls on the agency "to remedy this state of affairs and consider applying more effective measures to deal with such financing situations, such as flat-rate billing." [2]

The Court also found that Frontex's "physical inventory was incomplete and did not cover all assets owned by the Agency," and that:

"The recruitment procedures examined showed significant shortcomings affecting transparency and the equal treatment of candidates: questions for written tests and interviews were set after he applications had been examined by the selection board; no threshold scores were set for admission to written tests and interviews and for being included in the list of suitable candidates; the Selection Board did not document all its meetings and decisions."

Frontex responded by saying that "in 2013 HR [human resources] will be stricter in monitoring the process and will implement measures in order to raise awareness in this particular area among the selection board members."

The draft opinion of the Civil Liberties Committee says that "in general, greater attention should be paid to checking the sound financial management and internal controls of Frontex." The opinion is expected to go before the full Parliament in early April. [3]

See also: Frontex: Final Accounts for 2012 (pdf)

Further reading

  • 'Commission launches study on the possible creation of a "European System of Border Guards" to be operated by Frontex', Statewatch News Online, July 2013
  • 'Frontex: Democratic legitimacy and concerns over joint returns operations code of conduct', Statewatch News Online, May 2013
  • 'Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly report: Frontex: Human rights responsibilities', Statewatch News Online, April 2013
  • 'A drop of fundamental rights in an ocean of unaccountability: Frontex in the process of implementing Article 26(a)', Statewatch News Online, May 2012

    [1] European Court of Auditors, 'Report on the annual accounts of the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States for the financial year 2012 together with the agency's replies', 9 July 2013
    [2] European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, 'Draft Opinion on discharge in respect of [Frontex]', 9 January 2014
    [3] European Parliament Legislative Observatory, '2012 discharge: [Frontex]', 2013/2230(DEC)

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