The European bloc should make more effective use of cohesion funding, as it is often “used in a rush” at the end of a programme period, auditors have warned.
The European Court of Auditors found countries were slow to progress with cohesion plans, in a report out yesterday, which looked at a spending round from 2007 to 2013.
It found much of the problems lay with delays in member states adopting the legal framework required by the EU before it pays out funds. This means the countries then received the money later in the spending period.
Henri Grethen, the member of the ECA who led the report, said: “It is crucial to avoid a situation where large amounts of money need to be used in a rush at the end of a programme period, because insufficient consideration may be given to value for money.
“Making use of the money becomes an end in itself, rather than a means of achieving policy objectives.”
Countries were often more focused on complying with rules rather than results when using the cohesion money, the auditors said.
The report recommended that to improve the way the funds were used, member states should revise programmes, split projects into phases and use EU funding to co-finance projects already funded nationally.
Overall cohesion funding for the 28-member states during this period amounted to €346bn during the audited period.
The report added members states did not provide enough information for the commission to have a good overview of how the money was spent or the impact it had had.
Another report from the auditors revealed earlier this month that there was a lack of focus on results in the project selection under the bloc’s cohesion policy.
The aim of the cohesion policy is to reduce development imbalances between regions, restructure declining industrial areas and encourage cross-border cooperation in the union.
The funds are used to support areas such as the low carbon economy, transport infrastructure, support for SMEs, getting more people into work and social inclusion.
Usually cohesion funds are allocated in advance to member states for a seven-year period.
- Public Finance International