The European Commission yesterday (2 October) launched a website making details of the beneficiaries of EU funding publicly available for the first time.
The ‘Financial Transparency System’ search engine – part of the wider transparency initiative launched by Administration and Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas in 2005 – gives “free access to details of who receives EU funds managed directly by the Commission” and the executive agencies it sets up to manage EU programmes.
“Very few public administrations […] open their books in the way we are now doing,” said the EU commissioner responsible for budgetary issues, Dalia Grybauskait?. The website provides “complete, reliable, comparable and user-friendly access to financial records on grants, contracts and other forms of EU support,” Grybauskait? continued.
The Commission and its executive agencies give around €10 billion of financial support to EU-funded programmes every year. Beginning with the 2007 financial year, the new website details some 28,000 beneficiaries of EU research, education and culture, energy and transport programmes, among others. It will list this year’s beneficiaries in 2009.
The search engine “allows users to analyse and compare information on beneficiaries and policy areas more easily,” stated the EU executive. Data is organised according to criteria like the country of the beneficiary, the Commission department which awarded the funding and the amount of money concerned.
Last July, a report from the EU executive revealed that the financial impact of irregularities and suspected fraud in the use of EU funds by member states continued to grow in 2007, despite a decreasing number of cases documented (EURACTIV 23/07/08).
Commissioner Kallas said “we have always claimed that EU programmes benefit individuals, companies and civil society across and beyond the 27 member states”. But the new website would prove this, enabling “any EU citizen to check what and when they want,” providing “a very effective form of accountability,” he added.
Earlier this year, a communication from the EU executive sought to establish common rules defining the role of regulatory agencies to boost “their transparency and effectiveness” (EURACTIV 12/03/08).
The website will be enhanced to give details of the Commission’s procurement contracts for day-to-day administrative issues in 2010.
Meanwhile, a separate portal went online on 30 September, giving details of payments to member states from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Governments must make details of all other agricultural payments available by 30 April 2009.