How can correct use of funds be ensured?

Crane on a bridge construction site
Switzerland monitors the project-selection process in the partner country, checks the invitations to tender and supervises the project implementation. © Fotolia

For all countries involved in international cooperation, correct use of funds is a key criterion of success. Switzerland has taken a number of measures to ensure the effective use of funds.

The measures to ensure the effective use of funds include close monitoring of the project selection process in the partner country, examination of tendering and contract awarding processes as well as the supervision of project implementation. The system of payment used also provides a degree of security. If Switzerland suspects irregularities, it can stop payments.

Careful selection of projects

The National Coordination Unit (NCU) of the partner country concerned is responsible for project selection. An independent body which includes representatives of the National Coordination Unit, the ministries involved and non-governmental organisations, checks the selection criteria and the selection procedure. Switzerland can take part as an observer in the meetings of this body.

Switzerland decides on the financing of the projects. An evaluation of the risks of abuse and of corruptionis an integral part of project examination.

Examination of the allocation of mandates

The granting of supply and service mandates is carried out on the basis of WTO provisions, EU law and Swiss law. The National Coordination Unit must confirm in writing that existing laws have been complied with and that all persons concerned are independent in the case of every public tender. The tender forms also contain an integrity clause in which all parties undertake to act correctly (not to commit acts of corruption). Switzerland has access to all documents concerning the allocation of mandates. In particular, for tenders whose value exceeds CHF 500,000, it has the right to view the tender documents before publication and to attend the evaluation committee meetings as an observer.

Regular reporting and audits

The body carrying out the project is known as the executing agency, which is responsible for the services. This agency reports at least once every six months to Switzerland about the progress of the project and the services for which invoices have been received. The National Coordination Unit checks and confirms that the payment claims are correct. Switzerland has the right to inspect all relevant documents.

By the end of the project at the latest, a certified organisation will carry out a financial audit for each and every project. Switzerland will be informed about all details of the audit and will receive summaries with conclusions and recommendations.

Close monitoring on the ground

The SDC and SECO have established offices in Warsaw, Riga, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Bucharest and Sofia.

Switzerland also allocates mandates to external experts, who carefully examine feasibility studies and tender documents. They also visit the projects and check the services provided.

Suspension and reimbursement of payments

The competent agencies in the partner states shall report any irregularities they discover in the projects to Switzerland. These irregularities usually involve unintentional misconduct and administrative errors, which can, for example result in fines for failing to comply with the provisions of public procurement legislation. One example is qualification criteria that were set too high and might thus possibly have restricted competition.

All contributions to projects and programmes are as a rule pre-financed from the budget of the partner state. Switzerland will only disburse the funds once it has received and checked the reimbursement requests audited and certified by the national coordinating agency. Costs in connection with irregularities shall be identified as non-refundable in the interim reports and will not be reimbursed by Switzerland.

In the event of suspected fraud or corruption, Switzerland shall be given access to all relevant documentation. The partner states shall investigate suspected cases of fraud and corruption and, where appropriate, instigate criminal proceedings under national law. Switzerland can stop payments and reclaim illegally paid contributions in such cases.