A fine of €18.93m ($21.1m) has been levied on Spain for the misrepresentation of government accounts, the Council of the European Union has announced in a statement.
The fine follows an investigation conducted by the European Commission (EC) on whether the manipulation of data was intentional or negligent.
In May 2012 it emerged that one of Spain’s regional autonomous governments, Comunidad Valenciana, misreported for more than 20 years its regional health expenditure affecting national government deficit figures as a result.
The EC’s investigation, which finished last May, proposed sanctions for the EU member state on the basis of "serious negligence" to the tune of €94.65m.
But a number of elements justified a reduction in the final amount of the fine. First, the wrongdoing was mainly attributable to the regional audit office of the autonomous community and not to the government.
Second, the misrepresentation had a limited impact as far as the whole EU economic governance was concerned.
Third, Spanish authorities cooperated in the investigation and amended figures were provided in 2012 to the EC’s statistics office, Eurostat, which allowed the revision of Spain’s deficit data in the same year.
The EC stated in its investigation report that the regional audit office was seriously negligent as by not recording health expenditure it didn’t comply with the accrual principle required by the European System of Accounts (ESA 95).
The so-called "Six Pack", an EU body of fiscal laws formed by five regulations and one directive, empowered the EC to investigate suspected manipulation of member states’ debt and deficit data.
This fine is the first imposed by the EC exercising such powers. The final decision has been adopted by the EU Council’s member states, with the exception of Spain.