The budget support the EU distributes to partner countries is not always supported by comprehensive, relevant data, a new report has found.
The report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) examined the reliability and applicability of the data used by the EU in determining its allocation of budget support variable tranches, which make up around 44% of the bloc’s total budget support disbursements. The release of variable tranches is theoretically conditional on partner countries’ results according to specific performance indicators; and the EU’s distribution of support of this type totals on average €1.7bn per year.
The auditors found that the targets and performance indicators used by the EU in determining the release of budget support variable tranches were largely consistent with the overarching strategies of recipient countries; and that they generally acted as a functional incentive, which is the intended effect. However, performance indicators were found to focus more on the short term than any long term goals, several of the indicators assessed for the report had no quantifiable targets; and around a third did not allow for the objective measurement of results. In addition, the auditors discovered, the European Commission did not typically draw conclusions pertaining to the ability of partner countries to generate accurate data on their own performance.
The auditors have produced a number of recommendations for the European Commission, most notably:
- Honing the Commission’s assessments of partner countries’ capacity to produce consistent data;
- Improving the development and definition of performance indicators; and
- Shoring up the efficacy of the Commission’s checks on recipient countries’ performance data.
Hannu Takkula, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, said: “The EU is the largest provider of budget support globally to help partner countries in their reform efforts and in achieving the United Nations’ sustainable development goals; but before any money is paid out, the Commission should pay more attention that it has the correct data to determine whether sufficient progress has been made.”