Programmes under continued pressure. Review of programme implementation Winter 2010-Spring 2011

Cite as: Michie, R. (2011) Programmes under continued pressure. Review of programme implementation Winter 2010-Spring 2011. IQ-Net Review Paper, Vol. 28, No.1, European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

The rate of financial implementation has improved across the EU27, with theaverage payments rate now at 25.2 percent (May 2011). These figures mask wide variations between countries. IQ-Net partner programmes report high levels of satisfaction with financial implementation and absorption, although actual levels of commitment and spend vary considerably. Programme changes have been mostly minor in response to the strategic reports, mid-term evaluations and analyses of spending patterns, as well as adjusting to changing circumstances and a restructuring of governance arrangements. When reflecting on the factors that have the most impact on the rate ofprogramme absorption, IQ-Net programmes identified targeted project animation activity and the use of financial engineering instruments as having the strongest positive impact. The use of major projects, efficient payment procedures andmonitoring procedures/IT systems were also rated as having a positive impact,while regulatory complexity and the impact of the financial crisis/lack of co-finance were identified as having had the most adverse impacts. Human resource issues, often tied up with organisational change, also featured as highly negative.

Although the use of Financial Engineering Instruments (FEIs) is now an establishedpolicy option in many IQ-Net partner programmes, others are using FEIs for the first time during this programme period. Reported benefits include their effectiveness at accelerating programme spend, the access they provide to additional sources offunding, the legacy effect they can create through recycling of funding, and theirperceived flexibility. Difficulties reported include take-up issues, the potential clash between private and public sector in terms of objectives and control, how they fit into the portfolio of products already available and the specialist knowledge needed.

The lighter audit burden envisaged during the intensive compliance assessmentperiod has not yet materialised for most IQ-Net partners. The higher level ofresponsibility accorded to domestic audit authorities during this period is perceivedto have had benefits and drawbacks, and much of the heavier burden imposed onprogramme managers has been attributed to activity by the domestic audit authorities. The burden of audit at project level is also perceived to be higherduring this period. A considerable amount of evaluation activity is being undertaken, includingthrough the ongoing evaluation process or mid-term evaluations. Partners provided many examples of broad and targeted communications activity, and reported mixed results from interaction with the media and from evaluation of broad communications activity.

While continuing to monitor levels of commitment and spend closely and managing the day-to-day running of the programmes, attention is now also turning to the period beyond 2013, with partners preparing for the 2014-20 period. There is a desire for balance between further simplification and stability,with any future changes being incremental and ‘at the margins’, rather than radical, particularly given the fact that many programmes are working with fewer human resources and face continued pressure from operating in a difficult economic environment.

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