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April 2001

The quarterly magazine of the actors of regional development

6 / 9

Clarifying roles in the decentralised management of the Structural Funds

Experience of regions in northern Netherlands

The Commission has recently held two conferences in Brussels to explain to national and regional managers of EU-funded regional development programmes their new responsibilities under the new decentralised management arrangements for the Structural Funds. The first, for managers of programmes covering the less-developed regions (Objective 1), was held on 5 June 2000; the second, on 29 January 2001, brought together managers of programmes for regions undergoing restructuring (Objective 2).

The Structural Funds Regulation for 2000-2006 set up a new framework for cooperation between the Commission and the Member States. The decentralisation of regional policy has given national and regional authorities more freedom of manoeuvre, albeit hand in hand with greater responsibility for monitoring and evaluation.

One result of decentralisation is the creation of clearly identified managing authorities for each programme. Designated by the Member States, these authorities select projects which may be eligible for European funding and monitor their financial management. Each works closely with a paying authority responsible for handling the financial transactions with the Commission. Instead of receiving annual advances as before, Member States and regions now receive an advance payment of 7% of the total EU contribution on adoption of a programme, with subsequent funding released to reimburse proven expenditure.

The Commission has made a significant effort to clarify the roles to be played by all parties in achieving specific goals of the Regional Policy. On 2 March, two detailed regulations implementing the general legislation were adopted following thorough consultations with the Member States: the first covers management and control systems for assistance granted under the Structural Funds, and the second lays down the procedure for financial adjustments.

Altogether, the two Brussels conferences were attended by about 1 000 national and regional administrators and business leaders, who had the opportunity to discuss the new rules in the company of representatives from various European institutions (Commission, Council, Parliament, Committee of the Regions, Court of Auditors). Workshops were organised around three issues: management and monitoring, controls and evaluation of Community funding.

Participants were able to share their day-to-day experience using Structural Funds.

Experience of regions in northern Netherlands

In the workshop on how managing authorities can meet Commission requirements on eligible expenditure, Gerard Van Drecht, a member of the Organisation for Cooperation in North Holland, who had been invited to share his experience, gave some specific pointers on how to ensure optimum value from Community funding.

The main difficulty encountered by managing authorities in checking expenditure is ensuring the figures they collect are an accurate reflection of the situation on the ground. Mr Van Drecht offered a number of possible solutions:
  • standard quarterly reports from the final beneficiaries. These enable regular tabs to be kept on the financial consistency of projects;
  • staggered payments (in five stages), combined with requirement on final beneficiaries to provide detailed proof of expenditure - enables ongoing monitoring of outgoing funds;
  • regular on-the-spot inspection of projects to gain an idea of the concrete progress made;
  • independent audits of the accounts kept by project organisations and managing authorities, to establish an extra level of control and security;
  • classifying projects in categories, so that "risk projects", large-scale and complex projects can be identified, enabling control priorities to be pinpointed more quickly.

The full text of Mr Van Drecht's presentation, together with most of the other speeches given during the two Commission conferences, can be found on the Inforegio site.



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