This article surveys the evolution of multi-level audit governance in the European Union. It traces sixty-five years of financial control, from the work of a single auditor at the European Coal and Steel Community (1952) to the creation of the Audit Board of the European Communities (1959-1977), and from the establishment of an independent European Court of Auditors (1977) to audit the newly established EU budget, to the setting up of a European Anti-Fraud Office (1999). The article addresses the challenges of securing effective cooperation between audit bodies at the national and supranational level. It also analyses how the Community’s external auditor started to ‘hold to account’ EU policies and traces the tensions and inter-institutional conflict that arose between the Court and the Commission and Council. Using an analytical approach set out by Tömmel (2016) that recognises different ‘modes of governance’, it identifies the main phases and turning points that have shaped audit governance. It shows how the audit task has changed since the Maastricht Treaty, and considers the way the Court works to identify error and fraud in budgetary spending, acknowledging the challenges of shared implementation for policies financed by the budget. The latter part of the article addresses current institutional reform and innovation. It examines the dilemma for audit governance brought by the Eurozone financial crisis and the emergence of new tools and mechanisms paid for by taxpayer money beyond the EU budget.
Accountability, EU budget, European Court of Auditors, Evaluation, Fraud, Implementation
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