COVID19: "consequences on the way we live and work in the future will be significant" says ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most disruptive health crises the world has ever seen, with a major impact on societies, economies and individuals everywhere.

Among its many impacts, the pandemic has also considerably affected the work of EU supreme audit institutions (SAIs). They reacted quickly and have allocated substantial resources to assessing and auditing the response to the crisis. The Audit Compendium issued this week by the Contact Committee of EU SAIs provides an overview of the audit work carried out in relation to COVID-19 and published in 2020 by EU SAIs.

The impact of the pandemic on the EU and Member States has been substantial, disruptive and highly asymmetric. Its timing, extent and exact nature, and the response to it, have varied greatly across the EU, but also regionally and sometimes even locally, concerning public health, economic activity, labour, education and public finances.

In most areas severely affected by the pandemic, the EU has only limited power to act. This is partly because competence for public health is not exclusive to the EU, and partly because there was little preparedness or initial consensus among Member States on a common response.

Due to this lack of a coordinated approach, national and regional governments acted independently when putting in place prevention and containment measures, when procuring equipment or when setting up recovery packages and job retention schemes to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. Nevertheless, after a difficult start, the EU and Member States seem to have improved their cooperation to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a multidimensional crisis that has affected nearly all areas of public and private life. Its consequences on the way we live and work in the future will be significant. As viruses do not care about national borders, the EU needs the means to support the Member States. It remains to be seen whether we have learned our lessons, including the need for better cooperation.

President of the European Court of Auditors, Klaus-Heiner Lehne.

The SAIs of the Member States and the ECA have quickly undertaken many audit and monitoring activities. In addition to the 48 audits completed in 2020, more than 200 other audit activities are still ongoing or planned for the coming months.

The Compendium released this week offers a general introduction to the pandemic and a summary of its effects on the EU and Member States, including the responses it triggered. It also draws on the results of audits carried out by the SAIs of Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and the ECA. 17 reports (out of 48) published in 2020 are summarised, covering five priority areas: public health, digitalisation, socio-economic response, public finances and risks, and the general response at different levels of government.

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