EC audits in H2020 project – are they really as scary as they sound?

One word will make any businessperson break out in a cold sweat: audit. There are plenty of reasons why audits are considered one of the scariest things when running a business.

If you decide to take on EU funding, prepare to be evaluated and monitored closely. You are receiving public money, after all. So let’s look at the most relevant facts you need to know about EC audits.

When can the Commission come for a visit?

 EC audits include on-the-spot visits and desk reviews. The European Commission may order an audit of your H2020 grant during the project or at any time up to 2 years after the final payment. Don’t worry about surprise on-spot visits. You will be notified a few weeks in advance. You can negotiate the period that fits your schedule best. Audits usually last up to 5 days.

Who can audit my company?

 The Commission can carry out audits using its own staff . Or it may outsource to external persons or auditing firms, which is common practice in most cases. Audits can be also delegated to European authorities appointed by the Commission: the European Court of Auditors (ECA) or the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in case fraud or serious breach of law is suspected.

What exactly will be checked?

EC audits mainly concern the financial implementation of the project. The EC verifies that the costs declared in the reporting periods are eligible as defined in the Grant Agreement.

Your main obligation is to make all records and documents available. All evidence must be verifiable and auditable: Data protection or confidentially are not considered valid reasons to refuse access.

You will receive a formal letter announcing the audit, including detailed information and documents to be provided prior and during the on-site examination.

Examination on site can also cover technical aspects, including physical inspection of purchased items and equipment. You are required to allow access to your premises, equipment and research facilities. The audit may also extend to third parties involved in the project: contractors, subcontractors, linked third parties or third parties providing in-kind contributions.

What happens if mistakes or irregularities are detected?

Frankly speaking, it is quite unlikely that the auditors will not find any errors in your financial statements. But don’t worry; it’s not the end of the world.

Only if the audit detects serious errors or obligation breaches will the Commission consider terminating the agreement or, in extreme situations, imposing financial penalties. In most cases, when the errors are minor the worst that can happen is rejection of certain costs or having to return part of the grant.

How can you survive an EC audit and avoid cost rejections?

If you have an H2020 project and want to know how to deal with potential audits successfully, contact us at We will help you get it right.