What conclusions do I draw from my belated discovery of the critical 2007 EC Court of Auditors Report on Technical Cooperation – and the rediscovery of the curiously entitled EC response A Backbone strategy of July 2008?
• how isolated individual consultants like myself are?
• How poor my internet surfing is?
• how responsive the EU systems is?
I would concede the first and third – but in fact my surfing is pretty good and I discovered this paper only by accessing the new EC site on development cooperation which has taken the place of my old EuropAid site. The paper doesn’t appear on a google search.
And the 2008 EC response is a good topic for both textual analysis and monitoring. Certainly I need to recast my paper for Varna – which becomes less an individual cri de coeur and more a case study in EC policy-making and implementation. My questions now become –
• How did the Court of Auditors pick up on these criticisms?
• What role did the monitoring reports of the period play?
• How coherent is the EC 2008 strategy response? At first sight it seems to be „all over the place” and not actually working from a clear problem identification
• How have the 81 European Delegations in charge of programmes understood the issue?
• How have they framed their responses? Formalistically (though action plans)? Or realistically – through a limited number of actions?
- do they in fact the capacity to do what is expected of them - with only 2-3 staff for such things?
• How are the results being monitored?
• What use is actually being made of experienced people like me?
I certainly haven’t noticed any changes – the European Delegation in China actually compunded felonies by imposing in December 2009 a unilateral requirement of an action plan from me within one month of my arrival instead of the several months given in the ToR for the Inception report – and stuck to this despite the lack of a counterpart appointment. It was one of the factors which led to my resignation.
The EC seems to suffer from an inherent schizophrenia about consultants in its work. On the one hand it chose 2 decades ago to go for procuring private consultancies rather than building its own internal system. But, whenever the choice presents itself (eg on Twinning; and BackBone strategy) it indulges in the populist attack on consultants. It would be better if it did at least make a distinction between the consultancy companies (who make the profit) and the individuals who work for them on a casual basis. The 2008 document has an interesting section which says
This entails on the one hand promoting the involvement of organisations other than commercial firms (such as public institutions, universities, non-profit organisations, think tanks, etc.), and on the other hand making more use of local and regional expertise (and more generally facilitating South-South cooperation). Particular attention will be given to facilitating the dissemination of know-how, the extension of learning systems, training, etc.through appropriate guidance, training and dissemination of good practices, raise awareness of the existing mechanisms available for mobilising expertise in public bodies. This includes:
- a) greater use of the negotiated procedure (already allowed by the PRAG in case of publicsector bodies or to non-profit institutions or associations);
- b) use of grant contracts (possibly and where relevant by direct agreement) to provide TC through non-traditional sources.