Luxembourg, 5 March 2013
Older workers – Member States and Commission cannot assess if programmes actually help – say EU Auditors
Increasing the employment rate of older workers is part of the EU’s strategic goals. But a new report by the European Court of Auditors has found that neither the Member States nor the Commission are in a position to establish how many older workers have gained new qualifications, or found or kept a job after having benefited from an action funded by the ESF. The necessary tools to provide relevant and reliable information in this respect have not been put in place by most audited member states.
The European Social Fund (ESF) is a key financial instrument designed to help the Member States achieve EU employment policy objectives. Its aims are to promote the integration in the labour market of the unemployed and disadvantaged, primarily by supporting training activities. From 2007 to the end of 2013, ESF spending will amount to over € 75 billion, representing around 8 % of the total EU budget. Six programmes with a value of € 222 million were selected for the audit, and cover four Member States (Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom).
“The Commission is approving programmes without requiring the information to check if they are really working and the Member States are not providing it.”, said Lazaros Lazarou, the ECA member responsible for the report, “Not having reliable, verifiable and timely performance data and assessments of the different actions makes it impossible for the policy makers to draw conclusions for current and future policymaking.”
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 25/2012) entitled “Are tools in place to monitor the effectiveness of European Social Fund spending on older workers?” assessed whether the Member States and the Commission had set up and implemented the tools required to assess the effectiveness of the European Social Fund (ESF) actions geared towards older workers during the programming period. It focused on the content of the operational programmes and in particular on the quantified operational objectives and indicators, as well as on the monitoring and evaluation systems.
The ESF is a key financial instrument at the disposal of the European Union to assist Member States in the field of employment. From 2007 to the end of 2013, ESF spending will amount to over € 75 billion, representing around 8 % of the total EU budget.
The Court found shortcomings concerning the design of the operational programmes, as well as the monitoring and evaluation systems. Furthermore, it observed that the Commission did not have consistent data at EU level on operational goals, outcome indicators and allocated funds. As a result, despite the fact that increasing the employment rate of older workers is part of the EU’s strategic goals, neither the Member States nor the Commission are in a position to establish how many older workers have gained new qualifications, or found or kept a job after having benefited from an action funded by the ESF. Furthermore, the amounts spent on this kind of action are also unknown.
The Court recommends that the Commission should:
require Member States to design their operational programmes in such a way that the performance of the ESF funds can be measured. The target populations should be unambiguously defined and relevant, quantified operational goals and indicators should be defined to measure outputs, results and specific impacts at target population group level. Intermediate milestones should be set and a hierarchy of target values established;
require Member States to design monitoring and evaluation systems able to measure and explain at appropriate intervals the progress towards all target values set;
obtain consistent and reliable information from the Member States in order to be able to provide appropriate information on the means mobilised and the results achieved by the ESF; and
ensure an in depth analysis of performance issues when assessing and monitoring Member States’ management and control systems.
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