Article 2(r) of Regulation (EU) 966/2012 defines “control” as “any measure taken to provide reasonable assurance regarding the effectiveness, efficiency and economy of operations, the reliability of reporting, the safeguarding of assets and information, the prevention and detection and correction of fraud and irregularities and their follow-up, and the adequate management of the risks relating to the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions, taking into account the multiannual character of programmes as well as the nature of the payments concerned. Controls may involve various checks, as well as the implementation of any policies and procedures to achieve the objectives described in the first sentence“.

The 2014-2020 programming is markedly result-oriented and requires stronger inputs from the management and control systems to ensure sound financial management and full legality and regularity of expenditure, and to counter fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities that may affect the European budget.

The subject of controls is more structured than in previous programming periods and plays a central role.

Among the main innovations introduced in the sphere of control:

  • Special attention to audit trails, which describe the entire process of implementation and management of interventions by identifying the responsibilities and activities of the parties involved (Beneficiary; Management Authority / Intermediate Body; Certifying Authority) and ensures the keeping of data and documentation relevant to the appropriate level of management as well as the methods and setting of their recording. Regulation (EU) No. 480/2014 establishes the criteria that an audit trail should meet to be considered adequate and allow for control and audit of the expenditure carried out under the Operational Programmes. The Regulation prescribes the minimum detailed requirements for the audit trail, as regards the accounting documents to be maintained and the supporting documentation to be kept;
  • Special attention is also paid to checklists, the main tool for effective performance of control procedures. The aim is to facilitate the investigation of all types and levels of control and provide the controller with operational and methodological support throughout the whole audit process;
  • As to conservation of documents, and notably as to the duration of their conservation, the Managing Authority (MA) is required to apply and comply with Art. 140 of Regulation (EU) 1303/2013, without prejudice to the rules on State Aid;
  • Responsibilities and functions of the various Authorities have been clarified and the functions of the Managing Authority (MA) have been defined in a more precise manner with regard to audits, separate accounting and anti-fraud measures (Art. 125(4)(a) Regulation (EU) 1303/2013): MA responsibilities have been increased and it is now required to draw up an annual management declaration of assurance, and an annual summary of the final audit reports and controls carried out;
  • The annual clearance of accounts system has been introduced, as per the Financial Regulation in force (Articles 137-138 of Regulation (EU) 1303/2013): as part of this process, the MA shall submit a statement of assurance by 15 February of the year following the reference accounting year (1 July – 30 June):

a. A management declaration of assurance that the expenditure incurred for the established purposes and that the control systems in place ensure the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions;

b. An annual summary of the checks carried out, including an analysis of the nature and extent of errors and weaknesses identified in the systems and corrective actions implemented.

In order to ensure application of the principle of sound financial management and correct implementation of National and Regional Operational Programmes, the European Commission clearly details the control tasks of each Authority.


    The Managing Authority (MA) is responsible for the management and effective control of the Operational Programme (OP), through an adequate separation of roles and responsibilities, to ensure correct, regular and legal implementation of the financed interventions, also from the accounting and financial point of view. To ensure the financial management and control of the OP, the MA shall:

    1. Verify that the co-financed products and services have been delivered, that beneficiaries have paid the declared expenditure and that the expenditure complies with applicable law, the operational programme and the conditions for supporting the operation;
    2. Ensure that beneficiaries involved in the implementation of operations reimbursed based on eligible costs actually incurred, maintain a separate accounting system or an adequate accounting code for all transactions relating to an operation;
    3. Ensure compliance with the principle of separation of functions for the bodies involved in management and control and the allocation of functions within each body;
    4. Adopt computerised systems for accounting, storage and transmission of financial data and indicators;
    5. Prevent, detect and correct irregularities, establish effective and proportionate anti-fraud measures and recover unduly paid amounts;
    6. Adopt systems and procedures to ensure an adequate audit trail so that all documents relating to expenditure and audits are properly kept.


    The main tasks performed by the Certifying Authority (CA) are:

    1. Preparing and transmitting to the Commission payment requests from reliable accounting systems, based on verifiable supporting documents and subject to verification by the Managing Authority;
    2. Preparing the budgets referred to in Article 59(5)(a) of the Financial Regulation;
    3. Certifying that the budgets are complete, accurate and true and that the expenditure complies with applicable EU and national rules and was incurred on operations selected for funding, in accordance with the criteria applicable to the OP and in compliance with applicable law;
    4. Ensuring the existence of a system for computerised recording and storage of accounting data for each operation, managing all data necessary for preparation of payment applications and budgets, including data on amounts recoverable, recovered and withdrawn, following cancellation of all or part of the contribution to an operation or OP.


    The Audit Authority (AA) shall ensure that audits are carried out on correct functioning of the management and control system (system audits) of OPs and on an adequate sample of operations (audits on operations) based on the expenditure declared. The audits on declared expenditure shall be based on a representative sample and, as a general rule, on a statistical sampling method. A non-statistical sampling method may also be used, subject to the professional judgement of the Audit Authority:

    1. In duly justified cases and in accordance with internationally accepted audit standards;
    2. If the number of transactions in an accounting period is insufficient to allow for the use of a statistical method.
The regulatory framework underlying the use of the Structural Funds also provides that, in application of the principle of sound financial management and correct implementation of OPs, control shall be carried out at several levels.