How Corruptible are EU Funds?

According to current ANTICORRP research, EU funds are up to one-third more likely to be touched by corruption than national funds, but as project researchers revealed 22 April in a meeting chaired by DG REGIO Director General Walter Deffaa, they have also found a number of policy-relevant solutions for improving this.

Policy Pillar Chair Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governance) and researcher Mihály Fazekas (Corruption Research Centre Budapest) presented the state of the art in research on the integrity of EU Funds at a meeting with policy makers from several Directorates General: Regional and Urban Policy; Research and Innovation; Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs; and Migration and Home Affairs.

The first piece of the puzzle is the perspective from which corruption in public procurement should be regarded. Although stories about public procurement “gone wrong” focus on individual cases, ANTICORRP researchers take a broad approach, focusing on corruption at the national level, and as a deviation from the norm of universal allocation of resources. Researchers have employed a method known as data mining to analyse hundreds of thousands of administrative records to find “irregularities.” These are any part of the tendering and allocation of procurement funds which is intransparent, inconsistent and/or seems to benefit the same companies or individuals.

Along these lines, project researchers in Work Package 8, including Mungiu-Pippidi and Fazekas have recently submitted a collection of reports analysing the procurement processes in: one old EU member state (Germany), four new member states (Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria), one candidate country (Turkey) and one neighbourhood country (Ukraine). The results of these surveys will be published together late May or early June.

At the meeting, Mungiu-Pippidi and Fazekas presented the following learnings and recommendations:

  • The local governance “rules of the game” will also affect EU funds;
  • Cannot rely entirely on local agencies as they tend to be part of rules of the game;
  • Establishing a European Prosecutor would be a good idea;
  • Governments who really want to change something invest in a whole package of policies, not just policing EU funds;
  • Improve data- all open formats, data from all stages;
  • Enforcement rather extra new rules (TED);
  • Make self-monitoring and control for governments mandatory;
  • Use indicators of corruption risks using ‘Big Data’ in daily audit and policy making;
  • Empower civil society to help with monitoring.

Providing tools for investigative journalists, activists, and think tanks to help with monitoring and whistleblowing have already had an impact in Romania, through the Romania Curata ( initiative which has 1.5million single users and 45,000 disclosures.

DIGIWHIST, a new Horizon 2020 project, of which the Hertie School and the Corruption Research Centre Budapest are a part, will establish an online portals aimed at enabling civil society to better understand and fight against irregularities in public procurement processes.

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