Flanders is the first ESF Managing Authority to publish a call for proposals within the Common Framework, and it is unusual in two ways. Not only does it incorporate a unique preparatory period while still staying within the synchronised timetable, but it also uses Simplified Cost Options throughout.
The call (Oproep 357 Transnationaliteit) covers six of the common themes – employment, inclusion, youth employment, learning and skills, social economy and refugees. Within those themes, all sub-themes are fair game with the single exception of mobility (placements abroad). It’s also relevant that Flanders places long-term unemployment within the theme of inclusion, not employment. Project activities should focus on mutual learning which is transferable and benefits the Flemish labour market.
Its timetable, as explained to an audience of 80 potential project promoters on 11 February, is as follows:
Preparatory phase: flat rate €15,000
|Deadline for applications:||18 Apr 16|
|Projects submit:||project proposal (idea) + draft budget for preparatory and implementation phases|
|Implementation:||1 Jun 16 – 30 Sep 16|
|Result:||desk research and partner search report|
|Report deadline:||30 Sep 16 (serves as application for next phase|
Phase 1 – implementation: max. €255,000
|Deadline for applications:||30 Sep 16|
|Projects submit:||final project proposal + final budget for implementation phase|
|Implementation:||1 Jan 17 – 30 Jun 19|
|Result:||implementation report, dissemination plan|
|Report deadline:||30 Sep 19|
Phase 2 – dissemination: max. €30,000 (if positive validation of product/report of phase 1)
|Deadline for applications:||15 Jun 19|
|Projects submit:||final dissemination strategy + final budget for dissemination phase|
|Implementation:||1 Jul 19 – 30 Dec 19|
|Report deadline:||31 Mar 20|
The programme is financed 60% by the ESF and 40% by the region, and no private cofinancing is required. Any legally registered organisation in Flanders or Brussels (with some restrictions for Brussels) is eligible, so long as they submit a quality certificate and a certificate of no economic advantage.
Projects must have a partnership of at least 2 organisations within Flanders and at least one partner outside Belgium which also has ESF funding. There can be any number of other national and transnational partners.
It is not yet clear which Member States will take part in the ESF transnational co-ordinated calls, and in which themes, but it currently seems that at least half a dozen will. However this is not necessarily where transnational co-operation stops. To widen the choice of partners, the Flanders ESF Agency is ever ready to help projects to find partners applying in calls under the flexible approach.
Simplified cost options – staff cost + 40%
The really interesting aspect of the call is the way Flanders makes innovative use of Simplified Cost Options. The preparatory phase is supported by a lump sum of €15,000, which is paid on production of a satisfactory report on desk research and partner search.
The implementation and dissemination phases are paid on the basis of a single unit cost: staff hours worked. Applicants have to complete a spreadsheet listing the names of the different members of staff who will work on the project. It categorises each of them by their qualification level and their seniority grade, and the input template automatically calculates the pay rate to be applied (these rates are taken by comparison with public sector pay in Flanders). The fraction of a full-time working year of 1,720 hours is then applied. The payroll cost is then totalled and a flat rate of 40% is added to cover all other direct and indirect costs – travel, subsistence, premises, communications, external contractors – the lot. Importantly, the co-ordination of transnational activities counts as an operational cost, not an indirect cost.
If a project is employing two full-time staff whose grade entitles them to a wage rate of €40,000 a year, then the total grant would be 2 x 40,000 x 1.4 = €112,000. When the time comes for the final report, how the 40% direct and indirect costs margin is spent is not examined. Nor is what the staff actually get paid in practice. What is examined is the number of hours the staff have actually worked. So if one of the staff had only worked 90% of a year, the grant would be reduced by 40,000 x 0.1 x 1.4 = €5,600.
Hours can be calculated in one of two ways: either by real hours as recorded on timesheets, or by reference to the contract of employment. This has the effect that self-employed people have to be counted as external personnel (and are calculated within the 40%).
State aid and public procurement
Despite Flanders’s determination to simplify the way projects are administered, other complications of course creep in. One is state aid: this provides that any one organisation can only receive up to €200,000 of grants from public sources (excluding Erasmus) in any 3-year period. So the last 3 years of accounts are examined. The second is procurement rules, so promoters must get three quotes for services bought in from outside.
Flanders shared the documentation on the call, including an English-language summary, with other ESF Managing Authorities. It is available at: www.esf-agentschap.be/nl/oproepen/transnationaliteit.
The call has also been published on the ESF TP website.