The government published the National Declaration 2016 to
account for the €1,492 million it received from the EU in 2016.
These funds were spent ‘under shared management’ with the European
Commission in wide range of policy fields. The National Declaration
2016 gives a true and fair view; it concludes that the management
and control systems in place for almost all EU funds functioned
adequately and that the funds were generally spent regularly.
However, we have the following comments.
- Timely submission of claims. The Netherlands
is at risk of losing some EU funding. Programmes from the 2007-2013
programming period must be closed before the end of March 2017. We
would stress the importance of submitting the final declarations
for the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social
Fund and the European Fisheries Fund on time.
- Differences of interpretation of regulations.
For several years there have been problems implementing the ERDF
owing to differences in the interpretation of the regulations.
There is regular disagreement on the depth of the audit authority’s
audits. The organisations concerned should improve their working
relationship as soon as possible by introducing a new dispute
resolution mechanism and improving their work agreements.
- More consideration needed for the added value of
funding. The error rate in expenditure should not be the
only criterion used to account for the regularity of the European
Commission’s expenditure. National Declarations in recent years
have shown that the management and regularity of EU funding in the
Netherlands are largely in order. In our opinion, it may therefore
be worthwhile to pay more attention to the added value of projects
and to increasing it.
- Debate of the budgeting system. The current
system of granting funds for a period of seven years is an
incentive for member states to ‘haul in’ as much money as possible
(which then – a second incentive – ‘has’ to be spent). This is not
conducive to the funding of projects that have the greatest added
- The National Declaration as an accounting and auditing
tool. The European Commission wishes to audit EU funding
more efficiently and reduce the audit burden. Problems in the
management, regularity and effectiveness of expenditure, however,
must remain transparent. The onus to achieve these ambitions lies
on the member states themselves. The Netherlands – like Denmark and
Sweden – is setting a good example by issuing an annual National
Declaration. If the European Commission is to manage more by
results, information on the effectiveness of EU funding should be
included in the National Declaration.
- Audit burden and the National Declaration. A
National Declaration can help reduce the audit burden and the
related administrative burden. EU auditors can rely on the member
states’ audits of the regularity of EU funding. The Netherlands has
already taken steps to this end. The Netherlands Court of Audit
reviews the work of the Central Audit Service and, if appropriate,
relies on it to express an opinion on the National
- Inclusion of own resources in the National
Declaration. The EU is funded by means of contributions
from the member states. The contribution of these ‘own resources’
must be transparent. It must be known, for example, how much the
Netherlands contributes every year and whether its contribution is
correct. And if not, why the Netherlands has to make additional
contributions. In the Audit report concerning the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs 2015 we noted that there had been
improvements in the notes explaining changes in EU contributions in
comparison with previous years. In the Report on the National
Declaration 2014 and the Report on the National
Declaration 2015 we recommended that the contribution of own
resources be included in the National Declaration. This would
create comprehensive financial statements of the member state’s
receipts (EU funds) and outgoings (EU contributions).
Response of the government and the Court of Audit’s
We received the government’s response to our draft report from
the Minister of Finance on 25 April 2016. The government
appreciated our positive opinion on the National Declaration 2016.
It valued the additional assurance it provided on the financial
management and regularity of EU expenditure under shared
management, The government would act on our recommendations and
would continue to pay attention to the correct use of EU funds in
order to maintain the current positive situation. We expect the
government’s undertakings to strengthen the orderly management, in
broad lines, of EU funds in the 2014-2020 programming period and