EU pandemic fund inspectors say no signs of fraud in Spain

MADRID (AP) – The European Parliament’s budgetary control committee said Wednesday it had found no evidence of deception or fraud in Spain’s handling of the 31 billion euros ($33 billion) it has received so far in special post recovery funds. -European Union pandemic.

But a visiting delegation urged the Madrid government to be more transparent and flexible in using the funds and providing public information about them.

Speaking on Wednesday at the end of a three-day inspection visit, committee chair Monika Hohlmeier said she was impressed by the Spanish authorities’ commitment to making the most of the funds, but added that she recognizes that administrative hurdles are a major complaint from various regional authorities.

“We’ve learned that the current implementation of funds needs to be more flexible,” Hohlmeier said. “The administrative burden is a common complaint from stakeholders. ”

She added that several regions in Spain complain about their proposals not being considered and called on “the central and regional governments to deepen their dialogue and cooperation”.

Hohlmeier’s conciliatory tone at the end-of-visit press conference came as a surprise, as the delegation was expected to be very critical of Spain.

She said the visit was not primarily aimed at looking for violations, but rather to ensure transparency and that funds were well spent.

Hohlmeier said there was a particular need to remove impediments to give fairer and faster access to the self-employed and small and medium-sized businesses that she said are so important to the Spanish economy.

She said the committee will make a series of recommendations in its next report once it has reviewed everything it heard in meetings with financial and policy officials during the visit.

Spain was one of the first EU countries to apply for and receive funds from the EU pandemic recovery fund and is among its main beneficiaries. It is expected to receive a total of 140 billion euros, half in direct transfers, half in loans.

Ahead of the visit, the European Commission said last Friday it would hand over an additional €6 billion to Spain, indicating its satisfaction with Spain’s handling of the money so far.

Hohlmeier conceded that future funds would depend on Spain completing an overhaul of its pension system, but said Madrid appeared committed to doing so and there was no prospect of the money being blocked.

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