Striking Audit Results by the EU’s ECA

Hello from Glasgow, Scotland;
The EU's European Court of Auditors (ECA) released their final report on the Facility for Refugees in Turkey yesterday. Here's a short summary of the 63-page report which contains quite astounding observations regarding the implementation of the EU-funded projects toward refugees in Turkey.
By Y. Emre Küçükkaya
The 63-page report covers the first tranche of the Facility and focuses on the allocated 3 bn euros for the period between 2016 and 2018 to assess the performance of the projects funded by the Facility. It also includes the Commission's response toward the ECA's evaluations. The summary here intends to translate the politically correct language of the report into a more straightforward one:
  • The EU's first tranche has funded 2 different strands including the humanitarian and non-humanitarian (development-oriented) projects that are operated/managed mostly by several UN agencies or international NGOs (INGOs). The ECA's auditing has focused on 10 humanitarian projects (out of 45 humanitarian projects funded by the EU) as they think the non-humanitarian projects need more time to be evaluated. 
  • The ECA does not seem to be quite satisfied with the overall outcomes of the projects with regards to efficiency and effectiveness. Meanwhile, the words effective and efficiency have been used 29 and 36 times respectively in the report mostly to stress the shortcomings
  • The ECA strongly complains about the insufficiency and reluctance of some Turkish authorities to provide proper statistical data regarding the beneficiary refugees as well as to ensure assistance for the auditors in reaching out the beneficiaries. 
  • The ECA argues that some projects funded by the EU are quite similar to each other and lack diversity
  • The ECA contends that assessing the ratio of administrative costs to the operational costs as well as the cost per beneficiary has not been made properly by the project holders in many cases. Likewise, the Commission is said to have failed to weigh how reasonable the projects and their costs were in the process of funding them since major budget inconsistencies have been spotted among similar projects
  • The ECA shares some significant observations regarding the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) which is the largest project within the Facility (nearly 1 billion euros). The efficiency ratio of the ESSN has been miscalculated since it disregarded the expenses covered by the Turkish Government according to the ECA
  • The main holder of the ESSN, the UN World Food Program (WFP), which is mentioned in the text solely as the UN implementing partner, has allocated the 7 percent of the whole budget (64 million euros) of the ESSN for its own administrative/managerial costs with no reasonable argument.
  • Furthermore, 8,9 million euros have been spent by the WFP's local partner (the partner not specified) for the provision of `cash transfer fee`duty although the money could have been transfered directly without such a channeling mechanism
  • The report moves on to suggest that the interest generated from advance payments has been kept by the ESSN's project holders themselves and not used for the beneficiaries. [It also implies that the same thing has been done during the implementation of the 'Conditional Cash Transfer for Education' (CCTE) project]
  • The ECA notes that the Facility results framework, the Commission's monitoring mechanism regarding the achievements of the Facility is not shared with the public.
  • The report highlights that half of the audited projects have not reached their expected achievements. 80 percent of the audited INGOs funded by the EU have not been able to achieve their planned outcomes in their refugee relief projects in Turkey.
  • As a response to the observations brought by the ECA's report, the Commission strongly advocates the structure and trajectory of the Facility and keeps its optimistic stance regarding the outcomes. However, the Commission also accepts all of the recommendations of the report.
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This summary has been brought to you by AIMS Turkey (the Ankara Initiative for Migration Studies). AIMS Turkey is a boutique research project exploring the refugee phenomenon in Turkey to support practitioners and academics who deal with the subject.
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