Administrative reform and unintended consequences: an assessment of the EU Cohesion policy ‘audit explosion’

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This paper investigates the effects of administrative reform in the Commission on policy implementation and outcomes through a study of EU Cohesion policy auditing. It argues that the growth in audit has taken a distinctively compliance-oriented form, in contrast with the performance audit model adopted in other countries that have embraced administrative modernization agendas. Further, the link between organizational efficiency and governance effectiveness postulated by other studies of Commission administrative reform is challenged, as the underlying audit and control problem in Cohesion policy – the high error rate – remain unresolved. Lastly, the proliferation in Cohesion policy auditing is
presented as a classic example of unintended consequences: originally intended to
improve policy performance and accountability, it has in fact undermined the strategic performance of the policy and is even threatening its sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-765
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jul 2011
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


  • eu cohesion policy
  • audit explosion
  • financial management
  • structural funds
  • administrative reform


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