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European Union food aid for deprived persons - European Court of Auditors report

22 September 2009
by eub2 -- last modified 22 September 2009

Information note of the European Court of Auditors concerning Special Report No 6/2009 - European Union food aid for deprived persons: an assessment of the objectives, the means and the methods employed.


 In the wake of an exceptionally cold winter of 1986/1987 the Community adopted a programme to release agricultural products, which were available in the Community intervention stocks, for free to charitable organisations for distribution to the persons in need. The measure was widely welcomed and still applies today.

The programme has two main objectives: a social one (to make a significant contribution towards the well-being of most deprived citizens) and a market one (to stabilize the markets of agricultural products through the reduction of intervention stocks). The participation of the Member States in the programme is voluntary. The budget has been increased from 307 million euro in 2008 to 500 million euro in 2009 for the 18 participating Member States.

At operational level in the Member States the programme is managed by the Paying Agencies. The acquired final food products are delivered to charitable organisations and from them to persons in need. The significant decline in intervention stocks in recent years has led to that about 85 % of the products for distribution are purchased on the market. Several thousands of organisations, staffed mainly by volunteers are involved in the distribution chain. According to the Commission's statistics, in EU-27 there are about 80 million of people "at risk of poverty" (53 million for the participating Member States) and the final beneficiaries are estimated at about 13 million people on an annual basis.

In a context of an evolving market and social situation, the Court audited the sound financial management of the programme in the last three years and its implementation in four Member States which used the most important part of the EU financial resources.

In this report the Court concluded and recommended that:

  • The predominant objective of the measure is the social one. The financing of the programme under CAP expenditure was initially justified because of the use of intervention stocks. However, when intervention stocks were reduced to almost zero in recent years the link of the programme with agricultural expenditure became tenuous. Therefore the Commission should consider whether it is appropriate to continue financing the programme from the CAP.
  • In general the programme has operated with insufficient coordination and cooperation with other key actors for social actions in the Member States. Such cooperation is necessary for better understanding and meeting the needs of the deprived persons and the charitable organisations implementing the programme. Therefore Member States should be encouraged to embed the programme in the social policy framework in order to increase the synergy between bodies concerned.
  • The measure was designed to alleviate poverty but not to eliminate it. In this regard the resources made available can only have a limited impact on the situation of individual deprived persons, offering on average the equivalent of one meal per month to its beneficiaries. Therefore, in order to enhance its effectiveness, it is necessary to define workable priorities and better target the aid.
  • The existing provisions constrain the variety of the products to be distributed to products eligible for intervention storage, while the procedures applied in the entire distribution chain result in different treatment of final beneficiaries in terms of the quantity of food provided per person. Therefore the regulatory restrictions should be reconsidered in order to increase the diversity, complementarity and nutritional value of the food provided and more equal treatment of recipients under the same conditions should be ensured.
  • Shortcomings in the management and monitoring procedures have been identified and the methodology for allocating the financial resources between the Member States does not reflect the real conditions. SMART objectives and performance indicators should be developed and the reporting system of the scheme should be reviewed to allow proper measurement of the programme's performance.
  • Finally considerably different tendering procedures are applied by the Member States which do not guarantee equal access to all EU operators and do not ensure the broadest competition nor that the best conditions and prices are obtained. In order to increase the openness of competition and to ensure that the best prices on the market are achieved, the legal basis as well as implementing rules for the procurement of food products for deprived persons should be better defined.

Special Report No 6/2009

Source: European Commission

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