European Research Spends on Errors

An estimated 360 million Euros from the coffers of EU research funding was spent mistakenly; auditors blame overly complicated funding rules.

By | November 14, 2012

Wikimedia, Julien JorgePotentially half of all research projects funded by Europe are making mistakes in the costs they claim, according to a recent audit of 2011 expenses. The auditors say that the errors are not likely to be fraudulent, but rather caused by the complex rules and regulations over how money can be spent within the EU’s Framework Programs, through which  research under specified goals is funded.

The auditors found one project which claimed 366,891 Euros in overhead costs, 180,670 Euros of which was inaccurately claimed. A portion of that money was recovered by the European Commission’s own estimate of the overage.

“The numbers may seem alarming at first glance but the overall impact is small,” Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the European Commission’s research section told Nature. Furthermore, such budgetary problems are far from unique among European budgets, one member of a team of European auditors told Nature.

The Framework Programs that have caused so much confusion are to be succeeded in 2014 by a new program called Horizon 2020.  “The radical simplification under Horizon 2020 should make people's lives easier and reduce error, while still ensuring good oversight and control,” Jennings told Nature.

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