Court of Auditors blasts aid effectiveness
By Isabelle Smets | Wednesday 25 April 2012
The EU Court of Auditors has put out a new special report that deals a blow to EU cohesion policy. It reviewed investments in seaports part-financed by the Structural Funds during the 2000-2006 programming period and concluded that only 11 of the 27 projects audited met their objectives
(1). Some projects were still incomplete (four major projects, representing 70.8% of the total amount audited) at the time of the audit, others were not in use and still others required significant further investment before they could become operational.
The only redeeming feature of these damning conclusions is that, as always with the court’s reports, there is a time lag between the audit and the publication of the results. In this case, the report states that the audits were carried out from June to November 2010. The Commission announced that, in January 2012, 25 of the 27 projects audited had been completed and 22 were operational.
For the future, the court recommends that the Commission make cohesion policy support conditional on the existence of a comprehensive, long-term port development strategy. The Commission explains that this is set to be the case soon, since the introduction of ex ante conditionality in its proposals for the future cohesion policy will “ensure the existence of a long-term strategic planning prior to any funding decision”.
Another of the court’s recommendations is to give emphasis to project effectiveness by encouraging management authorities to use results and impact indicators, carrying out on-the-spot effectiveness checks and introducing the principle of EU funding being contingent on attainment of results. Here, too, the Commission has proposed incentive measures for the next programming period to ensure that programming authorities improve results and it foresees sanctions for failure to meet performance objectives.
During the 2000-2006 programming period, €2.8 billion were allocated to seaport infrastructure under the Structural Fund and Cohesion Fund. The projects audited by the court corresponded to a total cost of €1.7 billion, co-financed by the EU in the amount of €726 million.
The ECA audit was performed in nine regions in the four member states that received the bulk of the funds: four in Spain (Andalucía, Asturias, Canaries and Galicia), two in Greece (islands of South Aegean and North Aegean), two in Italy (Sicily and Puglia) and one in France (Upper Normandy). For each region, three projects among all the seaport transport infrastructure investments notified to the Commission were selected at random.(1) Special report No 4/2012 ‘Using Structural and Cohesion Funds to co-finance transport infrastructures in seaports: An effective investment?’. The report and the list of projects audited are available at
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