Monday, March 8, 2010

European Court of Auditors Assesses Pre-Accession Monies

This is past due in terms of posting, but it is relevant to EU accession monies finding their way to Turkey through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) (2007-2013) and the Turkish Pre-Accession Assistance (TPA) (2000-2006) monies. On January 13, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) released a report on both pre-accession assistance schemes. From
In presenting the findings of the study, Maarten Engwirda, a member of the European Court of Auditors, stressed that "the auditee of the ECA is the European Commission, not the Republic of Turkey. The focus of the audit was indeed the Commission's management of EU funds provided to Turkey".

The investigation reveals weaknesses in the 2000-2006 period under the TPA (Turkey Pre-Accession Assistance), and shows that these have persisted in the first three years of the 2007-2013 period.

In the first phase, problems included "excessive delays, implementation problems, [and] inadequate monitoring and evaluation".

Although the Commission has tackled some of the previous drawbacks, improvements are still needed. The ECA was particularly critical of the huge increase in the number of priorities: 236 objectives were spelled out in the EU Accession Partnership. The court argues that it is impossible to judge Turkey's performance on the basis of these goals.

The ECA further criticised the Commission by claiming that "there was no mechanism to ensure that the projects proposed and selected were those that represented the best use of EU financial resources".

"Specific, measurable and achievable objectives for the assistance were not set and timescales were not realistic," the ECA member added.

Nonetheless, the audit does not only slam the Commission. It also actively proposes steps which could be undertaken to step up efficiency. Four major measures are envisaged: reducing the number of strategic objectives, improving project designs, making monitoring clearer and reporting more effectively.

Although the focus of the audit rested primarily on the Commission, the ECA's Engwirda spoke positively about the effort that Turkey's public administration had put into making the IPA funds work. "The audited projects mostly achieved their planned outputs and the results were likely to be sustainable. This is to great extent due to the high level of commitment shown by the Turkish authorities."

Moreover, Engwirda highlighted the continuous increase in the sums delivered annually through the IPA. The assistance began with 126 million euros in 2002 and will be worth around 900 million by 2012.

He pointed out how this steady rise in spending is "politically motivated". While political enthusiasm for Turkey's EU accession ebbs and flows, the political and financial foundations of the process seem to be anchored on more solid ground.
For more comprehensive reportage of the report, including the ECA's findings as to identified deficiencies in the monitoring and evaluation of EU-funded projects under the Decentralized Implementation System (DIS), which transfers tendering, contracting, and payment responsibilities to the Turkish government, see The European Journal's coverage of the ECA report. The ECA audit covered projects managed under the auspices of DIS from 2002 to 2004, identifying contracting delays and inadequate monitoring of project implementation. Under DIS, projects are managed by the Central Finance and Contracts Unit (CFCU). The ECA noted that the European Commission did not have sufficient information to properly monitor the efficacy of pre-accession assistance against ECA performance indicators.

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