Examination of witnesses (Questions 120
WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 1998
120. Are you doing anything with the larger
contracts to try to reduce the professional consultancy firms
and encourage the smaller organisations to come in? Is there any
way that can be done?
A. To my knowledge,
there is no more systematic way of providing this kind of assistance.
In my opinion, for environment projects, many of the larger consultancy
firms are in consortia with some of the NGOs, as a way of strengthening
their bids. They could also have national authorities of one kind
or another as part of a consortium.
121. We have heard a rumour that you are
thinking of doing away with the middle range of funding. Is this
true? The idea is that there should only be very large projects
over ten million ECU and the very small ones and that there should
not be the middle band. Have you heard this rumour yourself? It
is worrying some of the NGOs who see themselves as fitting somewhere
in the middle. Have you heard anything?
A. No, I have
not heard of any such thing. To have contracts only over ten million
ECU, in my personal opinion, would not be manageable. These are
technical assistance projects, so we are not dealing with investments.
A technical assistance project of four million ECU is quite a
lot already. The absorption capacity of the country in question
is not such that they can absorb more.
122. As far as you know, there is no plan
to change the system of the way the projects are organised?
Earl of Lindsay
123. Can I ask whether NGOs are only involved
of their own volition or because, at the bidding end, they have
decided that an NGO might make a good partner in the bid or whether,
from your end, there is a deliberate priority or effort made to
have NGOs involved in order that you can capacity build amongst
those NGOs and therefore perhaps build up some sort of a continuing
legacy that they can then deliver after the TACIS project is finished?
A. To the extent
of my knowledge, the only more systematic way that TACIS is doing
this is through the Lien Programme.
124. You are also doing things under the
democracy programme, are you not, encouraging NGOs?
A. Yes. The Democracy
Programme is approximately the same. Sometimes, when writing terms
of reference, we can urge or request that they cooperate very
closely with NGOs.
125. When you get the RECs established,
they will provide support for NGOs as well?
A. Yes. The EU
is definitely the largest contributor to these new Regional Environmental
Centres. I think it is a very interesting process that we at least
from TACIS hope we will be able to steer or put our emphasis on
working in the environmental NGOs.
Earl of Lindsay
126. You mentioned the Partnership and Cooperation
Agreements when you were answering Lord Walpole's question. A
brief description of them would be useful. I would also be grateful
if you could tell us how you see the new emphasis on partnerships
working in practice. Given that the Partnership and Cooperation
Agreements are a fairly new mechanism, we would be interested
to know how they differ from the indicative programmes.
A. I am really
not the person to elaborate very much on the PCAs. The environmental
priorities set in the PCAs, for example in Russia, and the cooperation
areas are very broad. In my opinion, they have to be made operational
to be able to be used as a guideline for programming and also
as a guideline for influencing the drafting of the indicative
127. What is the best source of information
on those questions?
A. There is a
lot of information in DG1A on this. If you wish, we could provide
you with that.
Chairman: We will
be visiting you next month, so perhaps we will have an opportunity
then to find out more about things.
Earl of Lindsay
128. Can I ask you what plans DG1A has for
expanding the number of collaborative programmes, especially those
which involve more than one Member State? You have already mentioned
a number of Cross-Border Cooperation Programmes but you might
like to elaborate.
A. I was not
quite certain as to what you mean by "collaborative programmes".
This means when TACIS is cooperating with the EU bilateral donors?
129. I think it was more to do with when
there were environmental problems like the Black Triangle which
we looked at, which was on the borders of East Germany, Poland
and Czechoslovakia. Are you developing links between the old Russian
countries and getting the Ukraine and Russia to work across their
borders, for instance, in any way?
A. Maybe I will
call them the multicountry programmes. For example, TACIS is supporting
the Black Sea Environmental Programme as well as PHARE because
they have Romania and Bulgaria. We have three other countries
in the Black Sea. We are assisting the countries in implementing
what is called a strategic action plan for improving the environmental
conditions in the Black Sea. We are assisting the development
of the network between these countries, to have them cooperating
on issues to improve the Black Sea. We have likewise a programme
just starting up for the Caspian Sea.
130. And the Aral Sea, or is that beyond
A. We also have
a programme for the Aral Sea. I am not dealing with this very
much myself. As I understood, the donors involved in the Aral
Sea region are now concentrating on secondary effects for the
Aral Sea because it is quite recognised that there is not much
to do with the Aral Sea today. It is beyond that point.
Earl of Lindsay
131. To what extent do those bidding for
contracts represent cross-border biddersi.e., agents in
separate countries who come together to launch a joint bid to
TACIS? Do they tend to derive from single Member States only?
A. In the major
part of the large size contracts, it is almost always consortia
and almost always they are comprised of consultancy companies
from two, three or four Member States. It is quite seldom at least
to the extent of my knowledge that you have a large contract awarded
to a single firm and not an incorporation of some sort or another
because the nature of many projects is such that it requires competence
in so many different sectors that there are few firms that could
actually cover all of this so either they are in consortia and
if they are not in consortia then they subcontract.
Chairman: Thank very
much. Lord Ponsonby, I think you have the final group of questions.
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede
132. Could you tell us about the procedures
for monitoring and evaluating the projects please.
A. Each project
is assigned a monitor in the recipient country and it is actually
a task monitoring team comprised of local expertise and ex-patriot
expertise and they monitor the projects on a regular basis and
they can also do it at the request of the task manager. For example,
if I have a project somewhere and I feel that maybe there is something
going on which is not exactly what we want or maybe I am planning
a follow up and I need some more information on the sustainability
of the project, I can request specifically a more in-depth monitoring
of that specific project. As I see it, the monitoring report is
a very important tool for the task manager because the task manager
is not able to visit all the projects that he or she is responsible
for and especially not if they are working on projects that comprise
many different countries. Then the monitoring reports address
issues that the task manager needs to take up, that the contractor
needs to address, for example, if their reporting is not according
to the task guidelines. It also addresses issues that the counterpart
should address in improving the project in one way or another.
But the monitoring works so that the contractors are monitored
against the terms of reference in their contract and not on overall
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: I
see. The next question is perhaps more difficult to answer. That
is how can the Commission lead to try and encourage capital investment
after the project is finished and what relationships do you have
with EBRD and the World Bank and the like to try and ensure that
happens? Do you monitor how successfully projects have attracted
some form of capital investment?
133. It is one of the great difficulties,
is it not, for the ex-Communist countries how to deal with investment?
A. The investment
question is a difficult issue. We tried to do it for example on
the city twinning programme. Many of them have been dealing with
waste water treatment for example. Maybe some of the outcomes
of these projects are forwarded to some of the international financial
institutions to see if there is a possibility of investment follow
up. There is also what we call the EBRD Bangkok facility. It is
kind of like a trust fund at EBRD for EBRD to undertake feasibility
studies for investment projects with funding from TACIS. In the
studies to be undertaken there should be a great likelihood of
follow-up investment lending so we do not go into a number of
feasibility studies where nothing is happening in the end.
134. You are always hoping there will be
a follow on?
A. Yes and it
is quite clear that it will not always be the case because it
is not until you have done the feasibility study that you can
actually see if the project is worthwhile in continuing or not
but at least it should be certain to quite a large degree. I think
that for some years, maybe not so much for TACIS, there were quite
a lot of feasibility studies done for different projects and not
a lot happened in them, but that was not from TACIS. As regards
the environment we actually do work quite a lot with the World
Bank and EBRD in furthering the possibilities of investment follow
Lord Mackie of Benshee
135. May I come in on this. It appeared
to me from evidence that we have had before that the EBRD used
TACIS money to investigate the process. In other words, you do
a lot of their work for them in the viability of the programme
and the necessity. Could you give us an idea on how often they
actually follow it up. Can you give us an example as to when they
did actually give the money or lend the money on commercial terms
or whatever it is?
A. No I am sorry,
I cannot answer that question because I do not know the statistics
136. Finally, what do you see as the future
of TACIS? Do you think it is going to grow? Will it be so successful
and wither away and will countries manage by themselves? How do
you see things developing?
A. You all know
that there will be a new regulation for 1999. The current regulation
will expire at the end of 1999. Then there will be a proposal
to the Council from the Commission concerning the future of TACIS
in September or October of this year.
137. But you do not know what will be in
A. No we do not.
Lord Hughes of Riverside: What
would you think should be in it? If this Committee has got to
make some recommendations
Chairman: We can help
you, we are not antagonistic. We are in the business of trying
to help TACIS succeed.
Lord Hughes of Riverside
138. What lines would you be thinking of
in improving it?
A. I cannot really
comment on it because it will be part of the proposal which is
all now being prepared.
Earl of Lindsay
139. To what extent will DGXI be involved
in working up the new proposal?
A. Not only for
the new regulation we have quite close co-ordination between DGIA
and DGXI on TACIS on a daily basis which, in my opinion, is very
helpful because they have some expertise in DGXI which we do not
have in DGIA which we make use of. For example, in the preparation
of this proposal to the Council we have also what we call the
inter-service consultation process which is a formalised process
of consultation between the different directorates and obviously
involving not only DGXI but all of the DGs. Obviously I work mostly
with DGXI but for example on energy projects, which also have
a large environmental component, we work very closely with DGXVII,
the Energy Directorate.