Social Integration Fund, whose goal it is to financially support and assist with social integration, has not provided sufficient evaluation of submitted projects and transparency of decisions in all of its cases. The fund has also failed to appropriately apply the method for funding projects. Such are the conclusions of Latvian State Audit.
The Social Integration Fund administers finances provided by the state budget and finances from foreign countries. SA has analysed the fund’s control process over allocation and use of state budget finances worth a total of EUR 1.87 million provided in the 2012-2015 period for the realization of 151 projects of 15 support programmes. Among those projects were Latvian language education projects for adults, exchange programme for Latvian and national minorities youth, summer camps for Latvian children and other projects.
After analysing available information, SA came to the conclusion that the Social Integration Fund did not provide sufficient documentation of assessment and proper traceability of its own decisions and did not use the same approach in assessing proposed projects. Thereby the Social Integration Fund raised doubts about the justification of its decisions. For example, in many cases analysts did not mention reasons behind lowering scores. In some cases, the score that was given to projects did not comply with the comments submitted for it. The reason for those mistakes is the insufficient internal control. According to auditors, this problem has affected results of three separate project programmes.
To reduce the administrative burden, SIF uses the option of applying cost per unit approach to assessing projects. The problem is that SIF did not comply with specific requirements detailed in the rules. Specifically, the fund has not developed a method for calculating costs and has not made sure the cost per unit value is always calculated in advance, is fair, subjective and possible to prove.
Instead SIF accepted actual costs provided by project organizers. Throughout 2012-2015, SIF had signed contracts for the realization of 44 projects, allocating funding from the state budget worth EUR 697,105.
When signing contracts with project organizers, SIF calculated costs per unit based on costs provided by each organizer allowing a very wide range. For example, the fund signed a contract with organizers of the Latvian language studies 2014-2016 project in Latgale. This project provided costs per unit ranging from EUR 108 to EUR 191. «By inappropriately applying the cost per unit calculation method, SIF has created a risk of uneconomical and unjustified use of state finances. This is because there is no certainty that the goal of each separate programme is reached by means of using less state finances,» – said State Auditor Elita Krumina.
In spite of the fact that SIF is obligated to check actual costs of projects if they are realized using cost per unit method, auditors performed evaluations of multiple projects and found different problems. For example, some project organizers signed contracts with relatives, certain project costs cannot even be identified, documents detailing the projects lack registration numbers of said projects and the overall realization of projects does not comply with the state of project selection contest. There have even been cases when realization costs included fees for services and goods received shortly before the conclusion of projects and even costs unrelated to the projects.
SA has presented the fund with four recommendations aimed to provide fair and traceable project assessment process, appropriate application of cost per unit calculation method, apply measures to improve control over the use of the fund’s finances and provide better monitoring of realization of commitments in projects in full accordance with regulations.