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Management and monitoring of structural programmes

C. Management and monitoring

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Complete management of any programme financed by the Structural Funds is always the responsibility of the Member State. For each programme, the State designates a "managing authority". It is this authority which, first of all, adopts the programme complement and then, if necessary, amends it. It also handles the selection of projects, for example through calls for proposals. Consequently, this is the authority that organisations (local authorities, firms, associations, etc.) wishing to receive support from the Structural Funds must approach.

A special case :
global grants

The Structural Fund regulations provide for the possibility of a national or regional authority transferring management of a programme or sub-programme to an intermediary body entrusted with a public-interest mission. This could be a local authority, a regional development body or a non-governmental organisation with experience in administrative and financial management. Recourse to a global grant is mentioned in the programming document as a special provision for implementing the assistance.

The managing authority is the hub of the programming system. For instance, it is responsible for organising the collection of financial and statistical data on the programme being managed. This information is crucial in monitoring the smooth running of operations. The managing authority also deals with publicising the assistance. This means that it must notify potential beneficiaries - and the general public - of the possibilities offered by the programme.

The annual implementation report

As part of its management responsibilities, one of the duties of the managing authority is to prepare, each year, the programme's annual implementation report. This document is of fundamental importance in ensuring that the assistance is unfolding smoothly and making progress in achieving its targets. Each year’s document is forwarded to the European Commission, which can examine the main outcomes of the previous year and monitor the programme’s progress. The Commission can, moreover, make observations or request certain changes to the programme.

The implementation reports play a significant part in ensuring sound programming. Their content is precisely laid down in the regulations. They must set out:

  • the financial implementation of assistance (with, for each measure, a record of expenditure paid and a record of payments received from the Commission);
  • the progress in the implementation of priorities and measures in relation to their specific targets;
  • indications of any change in the general conditions which may be of relevance to the implementation of the assistance (socio-economic trends; changes in national, regional or sectoral policies, etc.);
  • the steps taken to ensure the effectiveness of implementation (monitoring, financial control and evaluation measures, any adjustments in management, the use made of technical assistance, etc.);
  • the steps taken to ensure compatibility with Community policies (notably rules on competition, the award of public contracts, environmental protection, the promotion of equality between men and women, etc.).

How can a programme be adjusted ?

Some circumstances justify adjusting the programming documents. Implementing a programme can, for instance, reveal certain defects which should be remedied, such as a measure which is poorly targeted or too restrictive, a financial appropriation which is badly distributed between "successful" measures and other less popular ones, the omission of some types of beneficiaries, etc. More simply, it should not be forgotten that the programmes are spread over seven years. During this period, major changes could occur in the social and economic situation or in the labour market. Such situations can make it necessary to amend the programme.

Depending on the type of adjustment necessary, the body responsible will be either the managing authority - which will modify the programme complement - or the Commission, which will act in agreement with the Member State. Any adjustment of a programme by the managing authority cannot affect the total amount of Structural Fund assistance; any such adjustment, if necessary, must be decided by the Commission in agreement with the Member State. The same is true for the specific targets set for a priority. Decisions on adjustments are generally taken at meetings of the programme monitoring committees, which are usually held once or twice a year (see "Monitoring committees").

While the need for an adjustment can occur at any time, it is particularly likely to arise after the general evaluation of a programme. This must be carried out at mid-term (see "Assessing: when and why?"). Likewise, the allocation of the performance reserve to the programmes showing the best results will require adjustments to those programmes.

Assessing: when and why ?

When only limited resources are available, it is essential to ensure that the best use is made of them. Evaluation is a fundamental principle to ensure good decision-making, sound management of assistance, and therefore good use of the available resources. Evaluation exercises take place throughout the programming, to check both that the measures are running smoothly and that they are yielding results. Notwithstanding additional evaluations, in particular "thematic" exercises focusing on specific issues, they take place at mid-term and at the end of the programming period. The managing authority is responsible for establishing a reliable system for collecting statistical and financial data for evaluation purposes.

The mid-term evaluation - which must be completed before 31 December 2003 - is primarily the responsibility of the Member States. The evaluation must be organised by the managing authority but is carried out by an independent assessor. It is designed to examine the initial results of the assistance, the use of financial resources and the operation of monitoring and implementation.

An "ex-post" evaluation is also to be carried out once the assistance comes to an end, under the main responsibility of the Commission. It is also carried out by an independent assessor. Its purpose is to assess the use made of resources, the effectiveness of assistance and its impact. It will therefore highlight the factors contributing to success or failure in implementation and make it possible to optimise the assistance provided in the future.

Monitoring committees

Together with the managing authority, the Member States also set up a "monitoring committee" for each programme (SPD and OP). The committee's task is to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the implementation of assistance. The monitoring committee is in close contact with the European Commission - which participates in its discussions on a consultative basis - and is thus in a position to guarantee the smooth running of the programming. This role is reflected in its specific responsibilities:

  • It confirms the programme complement and any adjustment made to it by the managing authority; it may also request an adjustment.
  • It approves criteria for selecting the operations financed.
  • It periodically assesses the progress made towards achieving the specific objectives of the assistance.
  • It examines the results of implementation and, in particular, the results of the mid-term evaluation before it is forwarded to the Commission.
  • It approves the annual and final implementation reports before they are forwarded to the Commission.
  • It approves any proposal to amend the contents of the decision on the contribution of the Funds.
  • Generally speaking, it may suggest to the managing authority any adjustment it deems necessary to improve the management of assistance.

The performance reserve

A new tool has been created to promote the effectiveness of interventions: the performance reserve. The principle is simple: part (4%) of the budget allocated to each Member State has been put into a reserve until 2003 and will be distributed to the best-performing programmes. Performance will be assessed by monitoring indicators which reflect effectiveness, management and financial implementation, and compliance with rules regarding additionality. The Commission will allocate the reserve, on the basis of proposals presented by each Member State, no later than 31 March 2004. This is an important motivating factor for the programme managers, who must ensure from now until 2003 that they use the public funds at their disposal effectively and productively.


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