AUDIT OF MANAGEMENT OF EXTERNAL AID PROGRAMMES
Special report by the Court of Auditors on the management
of the Commission's external aid programmes (in particular
on country programming, project preparation and the role of
||16 January 2001|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||16 January 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||6 February 2001|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 20 February 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||Cleared, but relevant to debate covering the EU's policy on assistance to the Middle East (see paragraphs 1 and 4 above)
19.1 The European Court of Auditors (ECA)
examines in this Special Report the adequacy and effectiveness
of the Commission's procedures for country programming, project
preparation and appraisal, and the management of aid by delegations.
19.2 Aid is provided to the different geographical
areas through a variety of programmes. In the African, Caribbean
and Pacific (ACP) countries, it is mainly provided through the
European Development Funds (EDF). In the other geographical areas,
the different programmes are funded directly from the general
budget of the European Union. In 1999 a total of 7, 927 million
euros of commitments were made (see Table 1 below).
19.3 The report makes the following key
has not established common procedures for country programmes in
the different geographical areas;
project preparation is weak and objective
indicators are neither uniform nor integral to country programmes;
the Commission's decision-making structure
remains over-centralised. Conversely, delegations have limited
time to monitor projects, project implementation undertaken by
contacted agencies and/or consultants; and
the Commission's organisational structure,
procedures, use of human resources and working culture hinder
the effective management of external aid.
Overall conclusion and recommendations
The ECA says:
"European external action is governed by a variety
of legal frameworks depending on the source of funding, the geographical
area and the instruments or the channels through which aid is
provided. This results in different procedures at all stages:
country programming, project preparation and implementation and
in the degree of involvement of beneficiary countries and the
Commission's delegations in those countries, which complicates
the efficient implementation of the different programmes.
"The weaknesses noted in the management of external
aid have been pointed out in previous reports, notably the 1997
Annual Report, and
similar observations have also been made in the reports of the
external evaluations commissioned by the Council and the Commission.
The attempts so far to improve the Commission's organisational
structure to implement aid, such as the establishment of the SCR,
have, however, been only partial.
"The SCR is responsible for the implementation
of projects once the Financing Agreement has been signed. The
geographic Relex DGs
are responsible for overall programming, country strategies and
project preparation. This effectively splits the project cycle,
making decision-making procedures and the interface between the
delegations and headquarters even more complex. The Commission
has now accepted that splitting the project cycle is not satisfactory.
A further reorganisation of the External Relations services is,
therefore, being undertaken which seems to address many of the
problems presented in this report. The Commission's proposal should
help to improve its delivery of aid, but only if these changes
of structure and procedures are accompanied by changes in the
Commission's management culture towards a greater flexibility
and a results oriented approach".
The Commission's response
19.4 In its response, the Commission indicates
its willingness to address the issues raised in the report. It
shares the Court's view that the variety of different procedures
often complicates the management of the external aid programmes.
The reasons are "historical". New programmes have been
introduced to respond to new circumstances. It recalls that:
"The Commission's chronic
lack of resources and the unclear division of responsibilities
within the Commission governing the management of the entire external
aid effort hindered attempts to achieve greater harmonisation
of procedures, although the establishment of the SCR in 1998 was
the first stage in this process. Real progress was made in developing
unified tendering procedures and operational manuals."
19.5 Apart from the far-reaching reform
programme currently underway, other new measures the Commission
is taking include the introduction of a standard framework for
Country Strategy Papers designed to improve programming and the
introduction of project cycle monitoring. The Commission points
out that the rapid growth in the area of external aid has not
been met by a proportional growth in staff. It argues that the
provision of adequate resources is essential to its success.
The Government's view
19.6 The Secretary of State for International
Development (the Rt. Hon.Clare Short) welcomes the report, commenting
that it confirms a number of criticisms previously made about
the Commission's management of external aid programmes. The Commission
is currently undergoing a process of reform which is strongly
supported by UK Government, she says, adding that:
"Providing this reform
process is fully and coherently implemented the concerns
raised by the Court of Auditors report will be addressed. This
report will be an important element in discussions on the reform
process, including at Development Council".
19.7 The document is due to be discussed
at the May Development Council as part of a general discussion
on EC reform.
19.8 It is not surprising that when radical
reforms are undertaken, some modification is needed. The encouraging
aspect of this exchange is that the Commission is ready to make
further adjustments as experience is gained. However, it continues
to stress its lack of resources. In the past, the Secretary of
State has said that it should manage the resources it has more
effectively. The Court of Auditors report suggests that there
is still room for improvement. However, the question remains of
whether the Council is continuing to overload the Commission and
whether European Community aid would be more effectively delivered
if commitments were scaled down to a more manageable level.
19.9 We consider elsewhere in this Report
a European Court of Auditors Report on assistance to Palestinian
society, which we have recommended for debate in European Standing
Committee B as part of a wider debate on European Union policy
on the Middle East. The commitments made under that programme
go well beyond what the Commission has succeeded in delivering.
We believe that the Council should take some responsibility for
the situation which developed, and we continue to question whether
it is being realistic in what it expects of the Commission.
19.10 We, therefore, tag this report
to that debate.
54 Court of Auditors - Annual report concerning the
financial year 1997 (OJ No. C 349, 17.11.1998, paragraphs 5.19-5.44). Back
1995 the Council requested a full and detailed evaluation of the
European Community's development instruments and programmes.
Independent evaluations were carried out into European Community
aid to ACP countries, Mediterranean countries, Asian and Latin
American countries and the EC's humanitarian assistance. The
final report was delivered in May 1999: (20048) -; see HC 34-xix
(1998-99), paragraph 11 (12 May 1999). Back
External Service of the Commission. Back
Development, DG Enlargement, DG External Relations. Back