The European Structural and Investment (ESI) funds are known for their actions but they are also sometimes considered as complex. This complexity is justified by a number of reasons, such as the need to make sure that public money is spent adequately and transparently. The European Social Fund (ESF) is no exception. While it plays a key role in supporting employment, education and social inclusion, it often implies heavy administrative burden and costs for national administration and beneficiaries who have to justify their expenditures.
To simplify the use of the ESF, the Commission has been promoting simplified cost options (SCOs, namely flat rate financing, standard scales of unit costs and lump sums) as a way to establish eligible costs to be reimbursed not on the basis of what has precisely been spent, but on the basis of pre-defined amounts. It decreases errors rate and focuses more on projects outputs. As underlined in the final report on the use of the simplified cost options, this method is now used in 95% of ESF Operational Programmes.
In that context, the Simplification Thematic Network of the ESF Transnational Platform has been essential for the sharing of good practices Manage display on simplification measures among Member States. The Network also noticed that a key to ensure a wider uptake of these simplification measures is to install good working relationship between Managing Authorities and Audit Authorities. To that aim, the Simplification Network has developed the first ever case of transnational cooperation between ESF Managing and Audit Authorities at EU level.
More recently, during their 12th meeting (Hamburg, June 2019), the Network’s members expressed a clear demand for widening the scope of the network, by dedicating more attention and efforts to other topics than SCOs and Audit. For example, they are thinking about which authorities and stakeholders at EU and national level should be linked to the Network, how to disseminate practices, results and knowledge shared within the TN, and how to collect further suggestions from our the stakeholders. Moreover, during their 13th meeting (Tallinn, October 2019), participants discussed the idea of setting up peer-to-peer training actions between Member States to share knowledge and build capacity across Europe on simplification measures.
The next meeting of the network will take place in Cracow on 12-13 March 2020.