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A look into the EEA Grants and the Norwegian Grants to the EU Member states; efficiency of bureaucratic procedures is needed!

EAA Norway Grants 2016

This here is the outtakes of a report that we’re released now recently showing the wished aspects of the EEA Grants who are most donations from the Norwegian state. The Norwegian State has had through the EEA and EFTA had a company called COWI too look through the donor-funding and the interviewing of the ones getting the allocated funds.

With this in mind are surely other who have been commenting on the matter as the Report dropped in June 2016, I just got it today. So is it right? This is my take on it and here are the quotes that are significant to me and the process and overlook of the use of funds.

How much money at stake:

“The allocation of funds is channelled through 150 programmes within 32 programme areas in 16 beneficiary countries. For the period 2009-14, approximately 1.8 billion EUR were set aside under the grants. During the same period, the Norway Grants supported 61 programmes in the 13 EU Member States that joined in 2004, 2007 and 20133 respectively, and the EEA Grants supported 86 programmes in those countries as well as in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The allocation of funds to the countries is based on population size and GDP per capita” (EFTA, P:17, 2016).

The Aim:

“The aim of the mid-term evaluation is to assess to what extent and in which way the EEA/Norway Grants contribute to strengthening bilateral relations between donor and beneficiary states” (EFTA, P:18, 2016).

The Norwegian OAG report in 2013:

“The OAG found that bilateral efforts were not sufficiently planned and communicated at the starting phase of the 2009-14 funding period and that e.g. the key guidance documents were finalised too late” (…) “The audit expects that bilateral relations in the 2009-14 funding period will be better safeguarded than during the previous period given the fact that the current 23 Norwegian DPPs have entered into donor programme partnerships with programme operators in the beneficiary states” (EFTA, P:34-35, 2016).

Joint Research Projects:

“Possibly due to the fact that in the research field, international funding is available for joint research projects from for example the large EU programmes Horizon, etc. This kind of funding is not available to other sectors. The benefits in terms of developing international and EU networks and learning about international initiatives in research are very clear. The EEA and Norway Grants support these processes by being an important contributor and often facilitating a first international cooperation for both parties. However, the evaluation also shows that such networks and cooperation cannot always continue after the expiration of the external funding” (EFTA, P:49, 2016).

Implementation of Norway Grants:  

“A number of countries have decided to use the same system for implementation of the EEA and Norway Grants as they use for the EU structural funds. Programme and project stakeholders find that the structural funds system is too bureaucratic and that the financial rules are too cumbersome. The national system for implementation of structural funds and related procedures may not be very relevant to a partner/bilateral relation focused programme, especially when this programme includes a donor project partner, who has a hard time complying with the checks and balances of EU Member State structural fund programmes. Programmes in the Research and Scholarship sector regret the decision not to use ERASMUS+ procedures” (EFTA, P:56, 2016).

Allocation to the projects:

“99.3% of the total funds have been allocated to the five focus countries, and 42.9% of total programme funds have been incurred to date. The share of incurred funds varies across the five countries from 35.6% in Romania to 56.4% in Estonia” (EFTA, P: 63, 2016).

Pro Momunta Slovakia

One Slovakian project – Project title: Pro Monumenta:

” The project entitled Pro Monumenta is a cooperation between Pamiatkový úrad SR (The Monuments Board of the Slovak Republic), who is the project controller and Riksantikvaren (The Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Environment). The two institutions first established contact back in 2010 based on a Slovak initiative financed by the Ministry of Culture” (…) “The project was implemented from 1 January 2014 and was scheduled to terminate on 30 March 2016. The main goal of Pro Monumenta in Slovakia is to establish and equip three mobile teams with the capacity to identify and repair easy-to-mend defects at historic monuments, which have led or may lead to deterioration (including basic roof repairs, repairs to chimneys, rainwater drains, fixing of lightning conductors). Major damage identified in the project is documented in a monument technical report, which is stored electronically in a common database” (…) “In this case, the Norwegian partner mainly learns from Slovak experiences and approaches to the implementation of such activities. However, the Norwegian partner also supports the project through its human and technical expertise, such as through an expert from Nasjonele Fervardung, who is expected to arrive to Slovakia to conduct workshops for team members on monument conservation and repairs within a given area” (…) “The project is a clear example of the great contextual and bilateral potential of the programme, if properly implemented. According to the assessment by the project coordinators the project impacts are visible both in Slovakia and Norway (establishment of the formal programmes in the project area) and as Mr. Reznik summarized: “The project significantly improved bilateral co-operation between Norwegian and Slovak experts in the area – especially because it focused on an area of the common interest” (EFTA, P: 67, 2016).

How it is in Latvia and Estonia:

“One explanation for this may be found in Latvia, where some stakeholders indicated that since the bilateral objective is included in the MoU, cooperation is therefore embedded at programme level in most programmes. Since most programmes, particularly in Latvia and Estonia, also have a DPP, the programmes automatically focus on the bilateral relations. This may indicate a tendency for the bilateral aspect to become somewhat formalistic, along the lines of ‘we have a DPP therefore our programme adheres to the bilateral objective’, rather than it being a matter of content and mutual results” (…) “In Estonia, for instance, one indicator has been used in half of the programmes, namely the mandatory indicator “Number of project partnership agreements in the beneficiary public sector”. In more than 30% of the Estonian programmes, no indicator has been used, including the two other mandatory indicators “Number of project partnership agreements in beneficiary civil society” and “…in the beneficiary private sector”. These two indicators have both been used in only 10% of the programmes in 2016. Most programmes are required to make use of at least one of the three obligatory indicators, yet if adding together the top three lines of Table 5-6 for each country, it can be seen that some shares do not sum to 100%. This may be explained by the fact that there are programmes that do not require partnerships, and in some programmes it has not been possible to find relevant partners” (EFTA, P: 69-70, 2016).

Overall Conclusion:

“The overall conclusion on the efficiency of EEA and Norway Grants is that a number of dedicated tools to develop bilateral relations at programme and project level have been introduced. Most of these tools directly support the work of the programmes and projects towards developing bilateral partnership relations, shared results, knowledge and understanding and wider effects. DPPs, bilateral funds and donor project partners all support this goal. The main issue for DPPs and donor project partners is securing the availability of a sufficient number of partners to meet the demand. The main hindering factor identified across the programmes and projects is the administrative procedures (complicated, slow and time consuming) in the beneficiary countries and the fact that the systems used by the beneficiary states are very different systems. Another significant factor identified is the time frame of projects, which due to a late start-up of programmes, can have a very short implementation period” (EFTA, P: 117, 2016).

Clarify the reporting of the projects:

“It is recommended that more instruction be given on the expected contents of reporting on the bilateral objective to avoid the current wide variations in reporting practice and style and the non-informative focus on bilateral activities. It is also recommended that the programme reports include the bilateral indicators selected for the programme. It is suggested that the example of one of the focus countries (Estonia) is adopted. In Estonia, the bilateral indicators are annexed to the report, complete with a justification/explanation of why they were chosen” (EFTA, P: 121, 2016).

Recommendation for bilateral projects:

“It is recommended that focus be directed towards the predefined projects under the bilateral national funds. As mentioned above, the predefined projects provide an interesting opportunity for strategic level cooperation. It is unclear whether the callsat national level for smaller cooperation projects provide added value. Therefore, it is recommended that such calls be differentiated, either in terms of topic or timing, from the bilateral funds at programme level in order to for them to serve a real function (demand/meet a need)” (EFTA P: 121-122, 2016).

Recommendation for bilateral projects II:

It is also recommended to standardise implementation systems and rules so that every programme does not have to ‘reinvent the wheel’ (and spend a lot of time doing this). Especially DPPs working on the same programme type in several beneficiary countries could benefit from similar/aligned rules of implementation” (EFTA, P: 122, 2016).

Recommendation for bilateral projects III:

Particularly, data relevant to monitoring and assessment of the bilateral objective (results) are difficult to extract from some of the reports. Hence, the evaluator recommends that reporting requirements be standardised and clearly communicated to all relevant stakeholders (i.e. what content is required under which headings)” (EFTA, P: 122, 2016).

eea-grants-outreach-event-presentations-7-638

This here proves that actually the monies that going to the Projects are well-used, but those estimates are issued and checked in the same ways, not specifically different between the Educational or other more industrial collaboration between the Donor-Nations and the representatives.

The COWI report are clear on the levels of ability to use the funds, but have questions of finding clear partners for the projects as the allocation of funds is not an issue. That is mostly put on the spot and paid to the partner program either by the direct from Norwegian grants or by the EEA grants that are fuelled by most of the Norwegian donations. Therefore the monies to the nations and projects are arriving.

The indication of the efficiencies and the learning of the projects are different from what type of Norwegian organization is behind the collaborate effort, as much as the donor nation and the projects are proof of the development and goals of the projects that are funded this way. So they are properly examined and not like with this report they are settled with the same systems and with no consideration of the extent or the actual field they we’re prospecting. So the numbers and the proof of results are questionable. Even if the funds are used and the certain results are visible in certain cultural and historical aspects; we can still question the validity of the results be one-fits all like socks when we talking learning-projects, refurbishing old artefacts and even bilateral corporation one set subject.

The indication of that each separate project under the funding have been using lot of time to find ways of implementing the collaborative effort and finding Norwegian partners for the projects funding through the grants; also how they are supposed to work to fulfil the degrees of plans that have to be there to be able to get funding through the EEA and Norwegian Grants. Also the question under how the outsider COWI struggled with understanding and getting the capacity to see the value of some of the results in some reports from the projects as they we’re all written in different ways and different lengths. Show’s the capacity of streamlining the production of reports and the evaluation of the funding through the bilateral projects as the methods of explaining is and can be hard get the data that is needed to tell the story of the projects. Therefore the methods of reporting need to change and maybe even be in one standard, so the EEA, the bilateral partners and the donors can show their success and value for money. Something that the citizens for both the organizations getting the funds and also the donors who needs to prove that the money is not wasted abroad… something that is key reason for the report to show the progress of the grants in the first place. Peace.

Reference:

European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Financial Mechanism Office (FMO) – ‘Mid-term evaluation of the support to strengthened bilateral relations under the EEA and Norway Grants FINAL REPORT’ (June 2016) link: https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/17c16170595b473ab59c7edc5c0208a7/2016-evaluering-bilaterale-relasjoner.pdf

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