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Luxembourg, 22 November 2013

“The Member States and Commission have not done enough to show that the €100 billion rural development budget is well spent”, say EU Auditors

A report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has found that the current monitoring and evaluation arrangements have failed to provide the information needed in time to inform decisions on which are the most effective and efficient measures for the preparation of the 2014-2020 rural development policy

The EU allocated almost €100 billion to achieving rural development objectives in the 2007-2013 financial period. Member States also committed € 58 billion of national resources to co-finance the rural development programmes (RDPs). Member States develop RDPs. Once approved by the Commission, these programmes are implemented by the Member States.

The Member States and EU Commission have focused too much on spending the rural development budget and not enough on efficiently achieving results”, said Jan Kinšt, the ECA Member responsible for the report,

The European Council has stressed that every euro of the EU budget must not only be spent correctly but also spent well. However, the ECA’s audit found that the Member States showed little interest in the results achieved with their RDPs. The Commission accepted Member States’ RDPs with vague, open-ended objectives that were not specific about what the programmes intended to achieve.

In this audit, the EU Auditors found that weaknesses in monitoring and evaluation by the Member States meant that the information produced was not reliable, consistent and relevant enough to show the results achieved in relation to the objectives set. Reporting of the results achieved has been inadequate. And the Commission and Member States have not made good use of the information that is available on results to improve the effectiveness or efficiency of the rural development expenditure.

Improvements to monitoring and evaluation can and should be made for the remainder of the current spending period (up to end of 2015) to ensure that the EU’s budget is spent well. Moreover, the upcoming 2014-2020 programming period presents an opportunity for the Commission and Member States to put effectiveness and efficiency at the heart of the new spending policy and subsequently when selecting the operations and projects to be financed. Key to this is setting better objectives and enhancing the monitoring and evaluation of results. The EU auditors make a number of recommendations in the report with this in mind.

Notes to the editors:

European Court of Auditors (ECA) special reports are published throughout the year, presenting the results of selected audits of specific EU budgetary areas or management topics.

This special report (SR 12/2013) is entitled “Can the Commission and Member States show that the EU budget allocated to the rural development policy is well spent?” The ECA examined whether there are clear statements on what the rural development expenditure is intended to achieve, if there is reliable information showing what the expenditure has achieved and how efficiently it has done so. A key element for this is a system of monitoring and evaluation, also referred to as the Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.

The system of monitoring and evaluation should provide information on where spending is, or is not, effective and efficient. Such information is needed for accountability: to inform the European Parliament, the Council and the public of what has been achieved with the EU budget and to demonstrate that it has been spent efficiently and effectively in accordance with the principles of sound financial management. Monitoring and evaluation also allows weaknesses to be identified and changes to be made both within the seven year programming period and when designing future policies, legislation and spending programmes.

The audit concluded that the Commission and Member States have not sufficiently shown what has been achieved in relation to the rural development policy objectives and there is a lack of assurance that the EU’s budget for rural development has been spent well.

Based on its findings, the ECA recommends that:

  • the Commission and the Member States should make use of monitoring and evaluation to increase their focus on achieving results;

  • the Commission and the Member States should take action now to ensure that good quality, comparable information can be obtained from the ex-post evaluations in 2015 of the 2007-2013 programming period;

  • the Commission should improve the Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework design to produce more timely, relevant, reliable and comparable information, in particular on the effectiveness and efficiency of each measure in achieving results;

  • Member States and the Commission should ensure that the 2014-2020 Regional Development Programmes provide a better foundation for sound financial management, with specific, measurable objectives and plans for monitoring and evaluation of the programmes’ efficiency and effectiveness;

  • Member States should design effectiveness and efficiency into the 2014-2020 RDP implementation systems, with the information gathered for the application, selection and payment processes re-used for monitoring and evaluation;

  • Member States and the Commission should improve their reporting on the results achieved with the EU budget to enhance accountability. This should include a more systematic follow-up of evaluation findings.

Aidas Palubinskas

Press Officer European Court of Auditors

Desk: +352 4398 45410 Mobile: +352 621 552224 Twitter: @EUAuditorsECA

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