Gloomy ritual over EU's handling of taxpayer's money

In what is becoming a depressing annual ritual, Conservative MEPs have once again fought to defend the interests of Europe's taxpayers by refusing to agree to the formal signing off or 'discharge' of accounts. In the European Parliament today, Conservatives voted to deny a discharge to the 2011 accounts of a string of institutions, including the Commission and the Parliament itself.

Local Conservative MEP Philip Bradbourn, Conservative spokesman on budgetary control, told MEPs: "At a time when every penny is under scrutiny, it is time this house finally took a stand on behalf of taxpayers."

When the Auditors released their annual report on the 2011 accounts last year, the European Commission's official response was that the report showed the situation was "stable". In fact the audit showed that the overall error rate - the money mis-spent, misappropriated or inadequately accounted-for - had risen for the third year in a row and now stood 3.9 per cent.

Mr. Bradbourn, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, commented: "If the European Commission thinks that this is a stable situation we have part of the explanation for that rising error rate: complacency is breeding contempt for the public purse. If what I say sounds familiar it is because we are in a depressingly familiar situation yet again this year. European taxpayers' money continues to be wasted and the European Parliament is still being asked to grant discharge to accounts which have been condemned by the Court of Auditors."

Conservative MEPs opposed proposals to sign off or in the jargon 'grant discharge' to EU institutions.

He added; "The amount of money the Commission considers to be at risk has quintupled from €0.4 billion in 2010 to €2 billion in 2011. This failure of oversight is why we believe there needs to be a full-time Commissioner for budgetary control in the next Commission term."