EU’s fund for promoting stability in Africa ‘lacks focus’

6 Dec 18

The objectives of the European Union’s €4bn fund to promote long-term stability in Africa needs to be clearer and more focused, auditors have urged.

Because the EU’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa lacks focus the European Commission has had difficulties measuring the successes of its programmes, the European Court of Auditors said in a report released yesterday.

Bettina Jakobsen, the auditor in charge of the report, told PF International: “When it [the objective] is so broad it can lack focus and it can also have the effect that you cannot measure the impact of the projects and whether it followed an overall strategy.”

She added that the fund was a “special emergency tool” but should be “more focused and steer the support towards specific actions likely to produce measurable impact”.

Projects were also not monitored effectively, which could leave them open to fraud, the audit report highlighted. Each region has its own monitoring system rather than there being a single overall one.

With €3.7bn of EU funding at stake, being able to measure performance is an important aspect of accountability, the auditors said.

Jakobsen told PF International: “To have better overview of the results, we recommend the commission creates a better monitoring system.”

She added: “From the ECA’s perspective, it is important to audit these entities because we are actually talking about quite large sums of money [being spent] and we see a need for better accountability for the taxpayer’s money when it comes to what should be prioritised, delivered and reported.”

The auditors examined 20 ongoing projects in Libya and Niger, which were all at an early phase in their implementation but had started to produce outputs, the report said. They were the countries that had received the largest allocations in their respective regions.

Jakobsen also said: “There are no common criteria for that selection, so our recommendation is that the commission should establish some criteria for how the projects are chosen.”

It was “not exactly clear” to see how projects that receive support from the fund were selected, the report stated.

Although, the commission has already rejected the recommendation that a clear common criteria for selection was necessary.

The report raised the concern that some projects under the trust fund face similar delays as ‘traditional aid’.

“We would expect that since it is an emergency fund it would work faster than traditional aid,” Jakobsen said.

“What we saw is that they were quite fast in signing the contracts but encountered the same delays in implementation as traditional aid projects.” Delays were often due to issues such as security and border management.

“One of our recommendations is that the commission, when implementing these projects, makes sure it is coordinating among the different actors on the spot [ground].”

The EUTF, which also tackles the root cause of migration, is the biggest of four EU trust funds and totals €4.1bn, of which €3.7bn comes from the EU budget and the European Development Funds. The rest of the funding comes from member state contributions, as well as from Norway and Switzerland.

The trust fund supports activities in 26 countries across three regions in Africa. It funds, for example, decent living conditions for migrants, humanitarian assistance - such as hygiene kits and medical assistance - and centres to monitor the local consequences of migration.

The auditors found the fund had decreased the number of ‘irregular’ migrants passing from Africa to Europe, although this contribution could not be measured precisely.

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