The Rural Development Program is intended to develop rural areas, but its design has made it difficult to achieve its objectives. In addition, the responsible authorities have not enjoyed adequate conditions to be able to perform their duties, and there have been no follow-up studies or evaluations that can contribute to improvements during the current program period or in the future.
The Rural Development Program is part of joint EU efforts to create “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.” For the current programming period of 2014–2020, approximately 37 BSEK were allocated for the Swedish Rural Development Program, of which approximately 60 percent consist of Swedish co-financing.
During the first four years of the program period, many of those who applied for support had to wait a long time to receive decisions and payments, and the responsible authorities have struggled to carry out their mission. Against this background, the Swedish National Audit Office has audited whether the Rural Development Program for the 2014–2020 period has been designed and implemented in an effective manner.
The overall conclusion of the Swedish National Audit Office is that the design of the Rural Development Program makes it difficult to achieve the objectives of the program, says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.
The EU imposes certain requirements on how the Rural Development Program must be implemented, but Member States can partly determine the scope, design and measures to be included in their respective programs. The Swedish Government chose to implement a broad program with a large number of measures with (in many cases) small budgets.
The EU regulations are complex and require extensive documentation and new IT systems for reporting. Along with the extensive Swedish program, this has resulted in increased administrative costs and delays in payments, explains Auditor General Helena Lindberg.
Moreover, the development of the IT systems that are to be used in the processing of applications for support has been delayed, and the functionality of the systems has often been deficient.
The Swedish Board of Agriculture and the county administrative boards have not been able to assess applications and to make payments on time. There is a risk is that these problems will persist throughout the program period, says Annelie Jansson Westin, the project manager for the audit.
The audit also indicates that the extensive documentation and performance reporting required by the EU regulations do not provide information on the results and effects of the efforts, and are therefore of limited value. Furthermore, the national monitoring does not make it possible to assess whether the objectives can be achieved.
A large part of the Rural Development Program is financed with Swedish tax money. Knowledge of results and effects is needed, in order to determine whether the objectives can be achieved and whether the program is being implemented effectively, says Helena Lindberg.
Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.
Presskontakt: Olle Castelius , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.
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