The public’s knowledge of the EU assistance did not improve in spite of hundreds of millions CZK spent on promoting
PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 15/26 – June 27, 2016
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) scrutinized funds that were used in the period from 2008 to 2015 by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, and Regional Council of the Central Bohemia Cohesion Region to promote the EU assistance in the Czech Republic. Auditors scrutinized projects, which cost nearly CZK 250 million and were funded under four operational programmes. These projects aimed at promoting the EU funds, operational programmes as well as individual projects and making them known to the public. However, only modest improvements in the public’s knowledge were found in the end.
The SAO drew this conclusion on the basis of available surveys and evaluation reports about impacts of the promotion activities. The audited ministries had also similar surveys done. For example, surveys made in December 2013 showed that the public’s knowledge of EU funds had been at the same level since 2011 as in both 2011 and 2013, roughly 74 % of the surveyed answered that they were aware of EU funds. When inquiring whether and how much the public’s knowledge of EU funds increased, auditors learnt that it remained the same and in case of the OP R&DI even decreased. In spite of the amounts used for promoting, less people found the information clear, specific, and accurate than in 2011.
Out of the scrutinized amounts, the most funds (CZK 138 million) were used for promoting via TV and broadcast spots, which aimed at the general public and informed about projects that were funded from selected EU funds. However, the information about costs of successfully implemented projects was not included in the said spots. TV spots often failed to inform the public that the projects were co-funded from the national budget. In case of the OP R&DI, spots were mostly broadcasted when the Programme had almost been implemented, which only implies that the allocated funds were quickly used in the due time.
Errors were also made when media campaigns were prepared. Audited ministries and the Regional Council failed to assess whether approved projects were budgeted reasonably. In many cases, auditors could not receive any explanation how the contracts’ expected values had been estimated, which could have helped to decide whether the cheapest offer was actually overpriced.
Supreme Audit Office