Errors in evaluation, selection, and control processes with OP Education for Competitiveness may result in loss of hundreds of millions
Press Release – October 15, 2012
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) aimed at Operational Program Education for Competitiveness, priority axis 1 – Initial Education and scrutinized selected projects, including those entitled "EU funds to schools", which apply standard unit cost comparisons. Auditors focused on the system’s functioning with 43 selected projects worth CZK 145.8 million in total; out of the amount CZK 124 million should be provided from EU funds. Substantial errors were revealed in several fields. For example, the Ministry of Education failed to submit all project selection criteria to the monitoring committee’s approval thus violating the EU regulations. As a consequence, hundreds of millions may not be paid from the EU funds.
As for the priority axis 1, the SAO concluded that the objectives had only been set shallowly, as it is not possible to evaluate effectiveness of the spent funds. In addition, the Ministry failed to produce an evaluation analysis, which would serve as a basis for the assessment of the global objective’s achievements, in spite the analysis was due in 2008. The Ministry also failed to monitor particular areas, which the programme aims at. For example, improvements of equal opportunities for children in most areas defined by the Operational Programme have not been monitored at all. In several cases, the Ministry erroneously informed about achievements of Operational Programme Education for Competitiveness in annual reports for years 2008–2010.
During the selection processes, there was a high risk of subjective attitudes towards the submitted projects. Projects were assessed by committees, which also consisted of a number of members who were somehow associated to the assessed projects. In spite these members usually (but not always) left the meetings during the related projects’ assessment procedures, the final voting results could have been influenced as the members did not skip voting on rival projects. The Ministry could have caused biased selection during the project assessment processes by choosing such inappropriate committee members.
In case of four particular projects, the selection committee declined the projects at first, but at emergency meetings, the projects were approved without any explanation of the opinion changes. When doing so, the principles of transparency, equal treatment, and prohibition of discrimination were violated as well as internal rules of the committee and the EU regulations. The auditors concluded that in case of these four projects, the violation of the budgetary regulations amounted to CZK 56.1 million. A simplified funding system was applied with projects entitled „EU funds to schools“, which made it possible for the recipients to use the provided aid to purchase equipment loosely related to the projects. The purchases included for instance furnishings and major appliances.
The Ministry of Education only performed poor control of procurements ordered by the aid recipients. For example, the Ministry lacks general knowledge about projects that fell within the category entitled "EU funds to schools", which were not supervised by the Ministry.
For further details about the auditing operation No. 11/17 (in Czech only), see the following link: http://www.nku.cz/assets/media/informace-11-17.pdf (pdf 251 kB).
Supreme Audit Office