Towards a public audit network in the European Union

Accountability is a crucial dimension of good governance.

Although European Union (EU) law recognizes several citizenship rights, including the right to good administration and the rights of petition and complaint, some authors accuse European governance of an accountability deficit.

Others emphasise the need to enable European governance through a plurality of accountability mechanisms, recognising, in this context, the importance of the European Ombudsman and the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

The ECA’s activity goes beyond financial audit, in that it includes performance auditing. This fact, as well as the communication established by the ECA with, on the one hand, the other EU institutions and, on the other, European citizens, confers upon it an institutional role in promoting accountability.

Thus the ECA has already had a substantive role in promoting accountability as an element of European governance. Nevertheless, I think it would be desirable to enhance the ECA’s powers, including sanctioning powers.

The need to ensure financial sustainability, and financial justice, in the European Union also demands enhanced coordination among the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) of the Member States.

The emphasis on Monetary Union and the expectations placed in the European System of Central Banks were not sufficient to prevent a deep financial crisis in the Eurozone.

Perhaps it is time to regard the public audit network as an indispensable element for ensuring financial accountability, stability, sustainability and fairness in the Eurozone – and in the EU as a whole.

by Paulo Nogueira da Costa

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