The European Court of Auditors has called on the European Commission to cooperate with European Union member states in order to beef up the bloc’s fight against fraud in EU spending.

“There is a clear need for the Commission, in cooperation with the member states, to step up its fight against fraud in EU spending,” the Luxembourg-based ECA said.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the watchdog criticised a time-consuming approach that sees OLAF, the commission’s anti-fraud office, launch probes that are often followed by criminal investigations by national authorities.

“Fewer than half of OLAF investigations have led to prosecutions of suspected fraudsters and resulted in recovery of less than a third of unduly paid EU money,” it said.

The ECA also said plans to set up the European Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2020 are a positive step but voiced concern the EPPO cannot force the 22 participating countries to set aside resources to investigate cases.

It complained that the Commission has not updated its anti-fraud strategy since 2011 and lacked “comprehensive information on the scale, nature and causes of fraud”.

Asked about the ECA report, EU budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger, who has proposed a €1.3 trillion budget for the bloc for 2021-27, said “there is nothing really new”.

“Most areas of improvement have long been identified and tackled already, or we are about to,” Oettinger added. He also stressed that the EU has proposed giving OLAF more investigative power, such as access to bank account details like that enjoyed by national authorities.