Dr Laima Liucija Andrikiene is a Member of the European Court of Auditors from Lithuania. She started her 6-year term as member of the Court on the 16th of November 2022. Before coming to Luxembourg, she was member of the Seimas of Lithuania elected in 2020, chairing its Foreign Affairs Committee. In the past Ms Andrikiene was a member of the European Parliament (2004-2014, 2016-2019), Minister of European Affairs of Lithuania (1996-1998), Member of the Lithuanian Parliament (1990-2000, 2020-2022), Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Public Management of the Law University of Lithuania (2002-2004). She is also a signatory of the Act of the Restoration of Lithuania’s Independence (11 March 1990). She is a graduate of the University of Vilnius in economic cybernetics, holding a Ph.D. in social sciences. The Baltic Times Magazine took an opportunity to ask how she feels at the European Court of Auditors and what her responsibilities are there.
Ms Andrikiene, how do you feel in your new position at the European Court of Auditors? How is it to be a guardian of the EU money? What are your responsibilities at the European Court of Auditors (ECA)?
I hope I am the right person in the right place. I fully acknowledge my mission and responsibilities. On 26 January, I took the oath as a member of the European Court of Auditors at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The values that are central to our mission are independence, integrity, objectivity, transparency and professionalism. In response to the challenges of today, the European Union needs more accountability and transparency, better financial management, more legality and order.
Since my start at ECA six months ago, I have already been given four tasks, which are very diverse and cover different topics and products of ECA activities.
First, I am responsible for a review on digitalising the management of EU funds. In its 2018 Digital Strategy, the Commission asserted its goal of becoming “truly digital” by 2022. This was followed in mid-2022 by a new Digital Strategy, with key actions to be achieved by the end of 2024. Our review will provide a comprehensive picture of the state of digitalisation of the IT systems of the European Commission and EU Member States used for managing EU funds, their interoperability, planned developments, including opportunities and challenges. I believe this review will shed light on the real situation of Europe’s digital agenda. We aim to publish the report at the beginning of July 2023.
Next, is a review on the Rule of Law Reporting. The Rule of Law is one of the values upon which the EU is founded. With this review we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the whole rule of law landscape including the European Commission’s Rule of Law Report on positive and negative significant developments relating to the rule of law in EU Member States. We plan to publish the report at the beginning of 2024.
In the second half of 2023, I plan to start a performance audit of the European Commission’s anti-fraud strategy. With this audit we would aim to answer whether the new Action Plan of the anti-fraud strategy would improve efforts to combat fraud and thus effectively protect the EU’s financial interests.
Finally, I am responsible for the audit of 2022 administrative expenditure of all EU institutions and bodies – €11,6 billion. With this audit we assess whether the expenditure on human resources, buildings, equipment, energy, communications and information technology is spent in compliance with the applicable rules. This audit task is a part of the ECA’s Annual Report on the EU’s general budget, in which we present our statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the transactions underlying them. It is planned that the 2022 Annual Report will be published in October 2023.
What is the ECA’s role in auditing the Recovery and Resilience Facility, to verify that its funds are used properly and bring maximum benefits?
The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the centrepiece of the Next Generation EU initiative with €672,5 billion in loans and grants available to EU Member States. It represents an unprecedented and unique opportunity to implement reforms and investments to support Member States in absorbing the economic shock created by the COVID crisis and making their economies more resilient. It is of the utmost importance that RRF funds, borrowed on the capital markets by the Commission on behalf of the Union, are spent effectively. Its added value depends on how effectively money is allocated to the EU’s ambitious objectives.
Auditing RRF is a cross-cutting challenge for the ECA since it covers many areas of EU policies and spending. It addresses horizontal issues such as green and digital transformation, smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, social and territorial cohesion, health, as well as economic, social and institutional resilience. Thus, it requires a strategic and coordinated audit approach. It is important to mention that the new delivery mechanism, linking the disbursements to achievement of milestones and targets and not costs, poses another challenge for the audit.
Following its NGEU audit strategy, the ECA undertakes many compliance and performance audits related to the RRF, to name a few: The Commission’s assessment of national recovery and resilience plans; the design of the Commission’s control system, Member States’ control systems on state aid and public procurement rules; protection of the EU budget from supporting measures twice from the RRF and from the cohesion policy funds etc. The Court as a watchdog of EU finances considers this unprecedented project very seriously – the reputation of the EU would be at stake if this project fails due to ineffective or even wasteful spending.