AGRI-INDUSTRY: COURT OF AUDITORS CRITICAL OF MANAGEMENT OF FAIR RESEARCH PROGRAMME.

PositionBrief Article

Understanding of Commission decisions regarding the selection and financing of research activities would be enhanced and the involvement of beneficiaries increased if key procedures for programme implementation were clarified prior to application. This is one of the principal observations made by the European Union Court of Auditors in a special report published recently concerning research activities in the field of agriculture and fisheries (FAIR Programme: Food and agri-industrial research) under the 4th Framework Programme for Research and Development (1994-1998) (4th FP). The report also concludes that the Commission should seek to define a coherent policy on information systems across all Directorates General responsible for the management of the programme, and ensure the use of common computer and management tools.

As with the previous programme, measures under the FAIR programme were co-managed by three Directorates-General (Agriculture, Fisheries and Research). This shared management was the result of historical and organisational considerations. As the DGs respective responsibilities and powers had not been formalised, the management of the programme lacked clarity and homogeneity. Optimum use was not made of the staff and technical resources available. According to the EU's financial watchdog, certain rules for implementing the programme were not applied correctly, as a result of lack of clarification or insufficient detail. For example, apart from the scientific and technical selection criteria, selection criteria concerning the compliance of projects with Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) objectives were applied. In the case of the FAIR1 call, they were not clarified beforehand. The order of priority of the projects selected as it resulted from the external scientific evaluation, was changed considerably. The principle that financing decreases in proportion to the proximity to the market of the proposals submitted was also rarely applied as a means of fixing the amounts of financial contributions.

As there was no joint selection and evaluation procedure under the Fourth R&D Framework Programme, the managing departments drew up procedures specific to the FAIR programme. These procedures, which were inadequate and, in some cases, poorly applied, did not fully ensure that the selections made were transparent. As for final evaluation, the obligations resulting...

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