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Montero outsources control of cohesion funds due to lack of staff

The Ministry of Finance, led by María Jesús Montero, is trying to overcome one of the risks that many economists have already warned about when Europe announced the unprecedented transfer of a new fund endowed with 140,000 million euros to our country. That threat was none other than the complexity involved in mobilizing the massive amount of money. Thus, the Ministry -which has among its powers to manage all the funds from the EU- has decided to award a series of private companies the financial control of the cohesion funds, ranging from aid to the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (EMFF) to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through the European Social Fund (ESF), among others.

The Treasury affirms that “the General Intervention of the State Administration does not have sufficient personal means of its own to carry out the financial controls on projects co-financed by the European Union within the temporary scope of the 2014-2020 framework, as well as the new 2021-2027 framework”. For this, the Ministry has published an economic report by which it creates a framework agreement “to select private auditors to collaborate“.

In total, the Ministry will subcontract the service for 2,321,352.20 euros for the next four years. Thus, among the awards, the one destined for the control of the ERDF stands out, where the two North American Crowe Y Grant Thornton they have taken control. In another batch, dedicated to aid to the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) and the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (FEMPA), the companies that have received the power of financial control have been, among others, Deloitte. On the other hand, in the lot destined for the control of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (FAMI), PwC and, again, to Grant Thornton, have received the award.

The decision of such a fast call has been due to the times set by the European Commission. “The existence of such tight deadlines for the Audit Authority to carry out its functions in a timely manner, as well as the obligation to respect the principle of independence of the private auditors who can collaborate in carrying out the audits of operations, with respect to the beneficiaries included in the sample for each year, makes it necessary to have an agile contracting procedure such as the framework agreementwhich also makes it possible to turn to other companies in the event of a supervening incompatibility when determining the sample for each year”.

At the moment, the ‘Next Generation’ funds have not required this type of tender. Undoubtedly, these are where the Executive is allocating all its effort, with projects to transform the economy (Pertes), aid and subsidies or expressions of interest. At the head of the Monitoring Unit for European funds to carry out the Recovery Plan is Manuel de la Rochawho is one of President Sánchez’s most trusted men.

Vacancies in the General Secretariat of European Funds

The General Secretariat for European Funds – which reports to the State Secretariat for Budgets and Expenditures – is the body in charge of channeling the 140,000 million euros that the European Union has allocated to Spain in the Next Generation funds. Within this secretariat there are two directorates, the General Directorate of European Funds -responsible for managing the structural funds, which are transferred every six years, and which are earmarked for items related to fishing, regional and rural development or social projects- and the general management of the Plan and of the Recovery and Resilience Mechanismwhich is in charge of directing the billions approved by the EU in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

As observed in the Portal of Transparency, in the technical office of the General Secretariat of European Funds there are up to 41% of the posts unfilled (12 vacancies out of 29). On the other hand, in the General Secretariat of Inspection and Control of the funds there are 24% of the positions unfilled (7 vacancies out of 29). This reality of lack of personnel suffered by the General Secretariat of European Funds, which – as has been mentioned – is now also in charge of monitoring the ‘Next Generation’ funds, has pushed Montero to opt for private companies that facilitate financial control.