EU Commission spends billions without achieving targets

Ovidiu Ispir, Member of the European Court of Auditors, gave a press conference following the publication of the ECA special report concluding that only 11 of the 27 audited infrastructures projects co-financed by the Structural and Cohesion Funds in the 2000-06 programme period were effective. (EC Audiovisual Services).

Ovidiu Ispir, Member of the European Court of Auditors, gave yesterday a press conference following the publication of the ECA special report concluding that only 11 of the 27 audited infrastructures projects co-financed by the Structural and Cohesion Funds in the 2000-06 programme period were effective. (EC Audiovisual Services).

One after the other all the major EU Commission programmes widely advertised for their efficiency are being judged by the Court of Auditors as ill implemented and falling short of targets. Today it’s the municipal waste management, yesterday was the humanitarian aid to Africa and tomorrow God knows what. Mind you that the kind of projects with a concrete object/scope can be checked for cost and efficiency even years after they are completed.

What if the European taxpayers’ money is used by the Commission to finance an advertisement programme or to support some NGOs? In those cases it’s almost impossible for an auditor to control cost and efficiency. But let’s see what the European Court of Auditors has to say about the waste disposal projects of a total cost of €10.8 billion.

Inefficient spending

“The effectiveness of EU funding for municipal waste management infrastructures was limited, due to the poor implementation of supporting measures” – say the European Court of Auditors, in a press release published yesterday.

However before the Court’s auditor comes to the subject matter of the report, there is a small introduction to the general principles the project should serve. According to the report “In 2010, it was calculated that the average EU citizen generates approximately 500 kg of municipal waste annually, which if not collected, treated and disposed of properly, can cause negative environmental impacts. However, proper waste management can lead to an improvement in the use of resources, because treated municipal waste can also be a source of raw materials.

As a result, the EU has introduced common standards and targets in the form of directives for the management of municipal waste and co-finances waste management infrastructures in specific regions. EU contribution to waste management infrastructures is significant: structural measures earmarked amounts represented €10.8 billion during the 2000-2013 period”.

There is no doubt that the projects and the financial means involved in this sector are very important. But all this money did it help create efficient infrastructures?  Did the entire project create good value for money?

The auditors report

EU Auditors found that the effectiveness of EU structural measures funding for municipal waste management infrastructures was limited. Only the performance of projects relying on an appropriate separate collection at the source was satisfactory. Regions that implemented supporting measures (such as the running of information and awareness campaigns, the redesigning of administrative procedures or the putting in place of financial incentives or disincentives), including economic instruments, achieved EU waste policy objectives. EU funding spent in other regions lead to only minor improvements in the management of waste. The implementation of these supporting measures was not a condition for receiving an EU grant.

The Court noted significant weaknesses regarding the reporting of achievement of EU targets, making it difficult for the Commission to monitor performance. Although in almost all the regions selected, some improvements in the management of waste were observed, per capita waste generation increased in six of the eight regions. Only one-quarter of the regions significantly increased the separate collection rate, resulting in a reduction on the reliance on landfilling, and generally met EU targets. Waste was generally landfilled without any pre-treatment or following a deficient one. This means that only one-quarter of the money was spent efficiently.

“Europeans are consuming more, and producing more waste. The EU Waste Directive requires that Member States treat and dispose of waste without risk to water, air and soil and without causing noise or odour problems,”, said Ovidiu Ispir, the ECA member responsible for the report, “As you can see from our report, this is just not being done”.

 

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