To ensure that the funding made available by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway delivers value for money and results, it is crucial to strike the right balance between risk taking and application of control measures. Risk management has been bolstered in the programme period 2009-2014 and is used as a tool for ensuring quality and good results, in addition to reducing the risk of corruption, mismanagement and other misuse of funds.
Achieving results, avoiding the pitfalls
Results, transparency and accountability are vital aspects of the EEA and Norway Grants. With a large number of programmes and numerous institutions involved, the structure of the grant schemes is complex, challenging and vulnerable to many types of risk. Together with results-based management, effective identification and handling of risks is therefore a cornerstone to increasing the impact of the EEA and Norway Grants.
Pursuing a dynamic risk strategy
Risk management is cascaded through the EEA and Norway Grants, and given due attention in the planning, decision and implementation stages of the grant cycle. Ownership of risk management is clearly established by level and area of responsibility set out in a risk management strategy for the management of the Grants. This strategy aims to make sure that risks are continually assessed in each country and for every programme. It is led from the top and should be embedded in organisational cultures, normal working routines and used to provide direction regarding performance and improvement. Since 2011 regular high level seminars on risk management have been organised for the donor states and beneficiary state institutions involved in the management of the grants.
Zero-tolerance for corruption
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway operate a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption, fraud and other mismanagement of funds in the EEA and Norway Grants.
Whilst mismanagement of funds may be related to deliberate corrupt or criminal behaviour, shortcomings in the planning of programmes and implementation mechanisms may create undesirable consequences as well. The implementation of the zero-tolerance policy therefore involves numerous actors with wide experience and insight in the use of public funds, including the audit and control entities in the beneficiary states, the European Commission and Transparency International.
Handling complaints and irregularities
Effective complaint mechanisms are a key tool to identify and prevent corruption and other malpractice. By providing citizens with safe channels to report any incidence or suspicion of corruption or other malpractice, complaint mechanisms allow for the identification of problems which might otherwise not surface, and for subsequent corrective action to be taken. The FMO and each beneficiary country have specific email addresses available on their websites for submitting complaints and alerts if there is suspicion of mismanagement of funds.
As part of our commitment to transparency and openness, we also make available key documents on the web, including quarterly irregularities reports presenting an overview of control routines and closed irregularity cases. See overview of available documents in our public access policy.
Mitigating corruption risk in cooperation with Transparency International
To help improve risk management, the EEA and Norway Grants entered into a partnership with Transparency International (TI) in 2011. The cooperation draws in particular on TI’s country-specific expertise to assess corruption and fraud risks. TI has conducted a Corruption Risk Assessment to identify and assess risks for every programme receiving support through the Grants, and has carried out assessments of the National Integrity Systems in 25 European Countries. This cooperation enables the donor countries to concentrate their resources for follow-up and control on areas where the risks are greatest.
The assessments also make the beneficiary countries themselves more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their institutions, leading to the implementation of mitigating measures. National Focal Points and Programme Operators are working hard to identify and mitigate corruption risk. Together with TI, an overview of risk mitigation measures has been developed, for use at national, programme or project level. TI will also provide support and guidance for establishing and implementing effective complaint mechanisms in the FMO and the beneficiary countries.