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The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of the EEA and Norway Grants

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Summary

Background and objective of the audit

The objective of the EEA and Norway Grants, which are provided by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is to help reduce social and economic disparities in the EEA. An ambition during the period 2004-2009 was to strengthen bilateral relations between donor and beneficiary states. This is an overarching objective for the period 2009-2014. The grants will also strengthen the ability of the new EU member states to fully participate in the internal market. The EEA and Norway Grants will help support positive development trends in the beneficiary states and strengthen contact with Norway.

The objective of the audit has been to assess the degree to which the Norwegian-funded part of the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms (EEA and Norway Grants) contribute to the overarching objective of reducing social and economic disparities in the EEA.

Findings and recommendations

The EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2009-2014 facilitate a more concentrated effort than the financial mechanisms 2004-2009

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made changes in the current financial mechanisms on the basis of experiences from the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2004-2009. A programme model with different topic areas has been introduced.

In the Office of the Auditor General's opinion, it is positive that the programme model facilitates a more concentrated effort compared with the previous period. However, a high number of programmes in the beneficiary states presents a risk of poorer achievement of goals at the sector and country level than if the support had been divided among fewer and larger programmes.

While the work of measuring results has been strengthened, it is still challenging to measure outcomes and long-term impacts of the support

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should consider strengthening the ongoing work on results-based management of the EEA and Norway Grants 2009-2014, thereby enabling greater reporting of outcomes and long-term impacts of programmes and projects.

Bilateral relations have been strengthened, but the work is not sufficiently planned and communicated

Bilateral relations in the funding period 2009-2014 will be better safeguarded than in the previous period. However, in the OAG's opinion, bilateral efforts were not sufficiently planned and communicated at the starting phase of the 2009-2014 funding period.

The programme model introduces a new level of management and contributes to higher administration costs

The Office of the Auditor General recommends that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the donor states' secretariat for the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms, follow up the complex management model with many actors, in order to safeguard control requirements and ensure good achievement of results.

The Ministry should also follow up the use of administration-related and technical assistance funds in a manner that ensures that the highest possible share of the funds goes to programmes and projects in the beneficiary states.

Challenges related to quality and capacity cause delays in the work on programmes and projects

The audit shows that implementation of the programmes in the financial mechanisms 2009-2014 is delayed due to the capacity challenges at the FMO and poor quality of some of the programmes proposed by the beneficiary states.

In the OAG's opinion, it is positive that the programme proposals are quality-assured, while there is a risk at the same time that the implementation period will be too short. The audit shows that this creates concern in the beneficiary states, giving rise to the risk of lower quality in the programmes.

Ministry/ministries:

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Riksrevisjonen, Storgata 16, P.O. Box 8130 Dep, 0032 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 24 10 00

Org.nr: 974 760 843