According to an investigation by the European Court of Auditors, there were significantly more errors in the distribution of money from the EU budget last year than before. With the expenditure of 196 billion euros, the error rate rose significantly to 4.2 percent in 2022, the auditors wrote in the annual report published in Luxembourg on Thursday. In 2021 the rate was 3 percent. Even then it had already increased (2020: 2.7 percent).

However, the estimated error rate is “not a measure of fraud, inefficiency or waste,” said the Court of Auditors. It is an estimate of the amounts that were not used in accordance with EU and national rules.

In 2022, spending from the EU budget amounted to 196 billion euros, according to the Court. A large part of these funds were distributed to projects by the member states themselves. Together with the payments from the Corona aid fund, the expenditure amounted to 243.3 billion euros.

“The EU has demonstrated its ability to respond to a series of unprecedented crises with exceptional measures in the shortest possible time,” said Auditor General Tony Murphy. However, the large sums made available in such an environment would pose a greater risk to the budget. “Our audit has shown the need to improve risk management as we continue to uncover errors in our work, leading to a significant increase in error-prone spending.”

The auditors said 66 percent of the expenses audited were associated with a high risk. Regulations and eligibility criteria for these expenditures are often complex, making errors more likely. However, the auditors also identified 14 cases of possible fraud, which were reported to the EU anti-fraud authority Olaf.

The Court of Auditors also announced that debts jumped to 344.3 billion euros last year, primarily because of the funds raised for the EU’s billion-dollar Corona recovery fund. Only the borrowing of funds for the development fund is associated with an interest rate risk for the EU budget. In addition, the auditors believe that high inflation rates have a significant impact on the budget. Based on the EU Commission’s inflation forecast, they estimate that the household could lose almost ten percent of its purchasing power by the end of this year.