Words from the actors affected by the setting up of Cooperation between the European Union/ACP (Benin)
02 / 1999
The issue of project and/or program funding is fundamental for all actors in Co-operation with the EU. They generally emphasise how slow procedures are, and the fact that the tools are inappropriate for certain development programs. Funding procedures condition the overall success of a program or project since they affect the preparation of files, the way in which the work is carried out and even new appropriations, depending on whether maintenance costs are covered or not.
Therefore, according to Mr. B. Oloudé (Director of the SERHAU-SEM)the EU is orienting its Co-operation in the right direction but is not objective enough about appropriate tools. In decentralised Co-operation, for example, we must not forget that we are working directly with the population. Procedures must therefore be more straightforward and adapted to the population. The World Bank is doing this and B. Oloudé considers that it has tried to find the most appropriate procedures for each operation. « The EU has its blocks of procedures which must be taken as wholes. » For example, it is not logical to agree to funding backed by bank guarantees and not accept that costs incurred by the guarantee be born by the project. It is therefore obvious that the EU’s funding and payment procedures are tangible, a factor which influences how effective projects are.
Mr. Y. Pelletier (Regional Delegate AFVP Benin)believes that with the CD the EU has set up an effective initiative which through its objectives and philosophy responds to development needs at the grassroots level. However, procedures applied to it are inappropriate. They are slowed down by difficult obstacles which waste time without being terribly effective. Admittedly, these procedures are well-adapted to constructing roads, but as far as human development is concerned - since local development is basically human development - an accounting mentality does not take into consideration all the work to be done. Control methods cannot simply be limited to the rate of loan consumption as is currently the case. There need to be fewer controls on paperwork and more trust, but more controls in the field.
In the same vein, Mr. André Marthoz, Head of the EDF’s Technical Support Unit based in Lokossa (Mono), emphasises that the EU does not yet have procedures adapted to development Co-operation at the grassroots level. « A development program can only reach full operating speed with the certainties gained from fact-finding surveys beginning with the third year. » A lot of time goes by between the signing of an agreement and its being set up. However, we operate annual programs based on yearly estimates. This is not logical. It is necessary to reform the organisational methods of our actions. Development is people co-operating with each other to design and set up a project, and this takes time. The provider of funds does not have time. So instead of designing development projects one at a time, Brussels works on projects in a standardised fashion, which undeniably leads to poor identification and inappropriate procedures. The EU must work in the long term and schedule projects so as to fit into the development process. This is not the case when, for example, a road project is funded, since this funding is limited and easy to set up and control.
This is why Mr. M. J.-P. Elong Mbassi (Director of the PDM)believes that all organisation of EU Co-operation has been designed to manage infrastructure projects and micro-projects at the local level. Correcting the organisation would, therefore, not be sufficient; a good dose of credibility also needs to be injected into the commission’s budgetary policies. Since up until now the form of initiatives has been combined with their content, the difference between the time needed for discussion on issues and the time needed to carry out the work itself has been forgotten, and people believe that action can replace thinking. This is what is influencing the EU’s funding procedures. Furthermore, Mr. M. J.-P. Elong Mbassi wonders whether the European Commission is not using a strategy consisting in announcing a project, then using slow procedures « to avoid spending » money that it does not have, in particular concerning transfer from one EDF to another. If this idea is credible, organisation will be at the crux of decentralised Co-operation.
Getting a project or program moving implies funding, which in itself calls for procedures. Within the framework of EU/ACP Co-operation these procedures are perceived as a series of obstacles by all actors. Admittedly, in certain circumstances accelerated procedures are provided for. In reality, however, they are generally not adapted to the diversity and specificity of EU Co-operation. One must add to this the problems caused by an accounting mentality (based on budgetary consumption rate)rather than a development mentality. In short, this means that the EU/ACP Co-operation tools must be adapted to the logic of a development programme since all other aspects (types of tools, initiatives, etc.)show that the Co-operation is promising.
It should be noted that late payments and cumbersome procedures are not limited to EU donors and that it is sometimes easier to hide behind these issues in order to cover up operating problems within an organisation.
Text based on the interviews with : Elong Mbassi, Jean Pierre, PDM Director, 7 January 1999; OLOUDE, Bachir, SERHAU-SEMDirector, 11 January 1999, PELLETIER, Yves, Regional Delegate et AFVP Delegate Benin, 13 January 1999, Mr. MARTHOZ, André, Head of the EDF’s Technical Support Unit in Mono, 14 January 1999.
Aihou, Désiré H.: Benin Cotonou National University.
[[Written for the public debate « Actors and processes of the cooperation », which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]