Low execution of European funds until 2020 raises the risk of Portugal not being able to take advantage of the millions of the PRR – Observer
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In seeing the largest financial package of funds, an audit by the Court of Auditors on the latest support framework reveals that execution rates were low, less than 60%, and leaves a serious risk alert regarding the country’s ability to absorb more than 60 million euros in the coming years. Even more, when a good part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) “has to be executed in a period shorter than the normal period of the normal programming periods and encompasses complex investments”. In addition to Bazuca, Portugal will start to receive the new framework of European funds.
And it highlights the need to “exponentially multiply the absorption capacity of European funding”, also pointed out as several causes for this situation. How to save are marked at a time when a political crisis is announced that could end earlier, in which, according to the President of the Republic, would have a negative impact on the country’s ability to spend the millions of European Bazooka.
Fact check. European Funds Stop Without Budget?
The audit of Portugal 2020 includes an exercise and execution of European funds between 2014 and 2020. Of the 26 million euros envelope, an expenditure validated by the end of 2020 was 14,873 million euros, which translates to an absorption rate of 57, 5%, divided by 16 operational programs. For being there were almost 11 billion euros. The audit points out that the level of commitment is even positive, but concludes that between 2014 and 2020 PT 2020 always recorded “low execution rates, motivated by factors of a recurrent nature. The main factors that hinder the execution of the expenditure are listed.
Late start of programmes, which in turn is attributed to late approval of operational programmes; Complexity and slowness of the designation process for managing authorities; Delay in stabilizing a delegate’s competences framework and in negotiating with the various bodies; Delayed definition and development of information systems, with difficulties in their interoperability; Closing of the previous community framework, the QREN, by the same human resources that manage the Portugal 2020 programmes.
Still on the blockages of the machine that manages the funds, the Court of Auditors identifies a long list of aspects that it qualifies according to:
- Insufficient human resources in support structures.
- Need to wait for obedience and guidelines that are decided centrally.
- Delay in the contest opening circuit.
- Complexity in the articulation of financing components of various funds.
- Lack of attractiveness of some support and the lack of interest of potential recipients (which is only partially explained by the need to provide part of the funding).
- Constraints in the public contracting phase of investments.
- Delay in authorization and prior requirements and in the analysis of payment requests and various operational difficulties.
The body led by José Tavares records the legislative changes introduced by the Government to streamline the system of advances and public procurement in order to streamline years of funds, but warns that the changes may “generate increased risks of reducing the quality of projects and fraud”. argue that new control mechanisms will be needed in action.
The audit analyzes the intermediate performance evaluation of Portugal 2020, promoted at the end of 2018 and mentions that the intermediate goals and targets were not achieved in 24% of the axes/priorities and in 13% of the indicators. These added numbers were lower if the targets had not been revised before the assessment, with the Court admitting that 62% of the priority axes was not the expected intermediate level of achievement. However, the thresholds of compliance that avoid penalties were reached.
Focusing on the operational programs at the continent level, the intermediate objectives were only fully met in 3 of the 11 – sustainability (POSEUR), human capital (POCH) and rural development (PDR). The biggest failure to meet the targets at this stage was registered at the level of regional programs, with a negative highlight for the Alentejo. The Court of Auditors indicates that a lower performance in the financial areas of social inclusion and the fight against poverty, programs that have already improved performance after having been reinforced with measures to combat the impacts of the pandemic.