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Luxembourg, 31 March 2011

ECA issues special report: Has devolution of the Commission's management of external assistance from its headquarters to its delegations led to improved aid delivery?

The European Union is the world’s largest aid donor, with the European Commission managing a significant proportion of the aid (8 440 million euro in 2009 through a devolved management system which it introduced between 2002 and 2004. This gave increased responsibilities to its offices (delegations) in partner countries. The Court’s audit assessed how these new management arrangements have been working. In particular, it looked at how far the objectives of improving the speed and quality of aid delivery and establishing sound financial procedures have been achieved.

The audit’s overall conclusion is that devolution has contributed to better aid delivery. Speed of aid delivery has improved as has the robustness of financial procedures. There are also indications that the quality of aid is now better, but the Commission’s systems for measuring this are not sufficiently developed to allow firm conclusions to be drawn.

The full potential benefits of Devolution have, however, not yet been realised and the report contains a number of recommendations to address the areas where improvements are necessary. The report emphasises the need for the Commission to improve how it assesses the quality and results of its aid, in particular, through strengthening its monitoring, reporting and evaluation functions. The report also indicates a number of steps which the Commission should take in order to make the best use of the human resources available both in its delegations and headquarters.

Mr Karel Pinxten, the ECA Member responsible for this report, welcomed the positive reaction of the Commission to the report and underlined the importance of addressing the issues raised, particularly at this time of changing responsibilities in the field of EU external relations, following the establishment of the European External Action Service.

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