Special Report 

More attention to results 

needed to improve the 

delivery of technical 

assistance to Greece

EN 

2015

 

NO 

19

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Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2015

Print 

ISBN 978-92-872-3450-6 

ISSN 1831-0834 

doi:10.2865/879030 

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ISSN 1977-5679 

doi:10.2865/026924 

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Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

Printed in Luxembourg

More attention to results 

needed to improve the 

delivery of technical 

assistance to Greece

(pursuant to Article 287(4), second subparagraph, TFEU)

Special Report

EN 

2015

 

NO 

19

02

Audit team

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) special reports set out the results of its performance and compliance audits of 

specific budgetary areas or management topics. The ECA selects and designs these audit tasks to be of maximum impact 

by considering the risks to performance or compliance, the level of income or spending involved, forthcoming develop-

ments and political and public interest.

This performance audit was produced by Audit Chamber IV — headed by ECA Member Milan Martin Cvikl — which 

specialises in auditing revenue, research and internal policies, financial and economic governance and European Union’s 

institutions and bodies. The audit was led by ECA Member Baudilio Tomé Muguruza, supported by the head of his private 

office, Daniel Costa de Magalhães and Ignacio García de Parada, attaché; Zacharias Kolias, director; Kamila Lepkowska, 

team leader; Giuseppe Diana, Mirko Gottmann, Efstathios Efstathiou, Theodoros Karantanos, auditors.

From left to right: T. Karantanos, D. Costa de Magalhães, K. Lepkowska, Z. Kolias, 

B. Tomé Muguruza, G. Diana, M. Gottmann, I. García de Parada, E. Efstathiou.

06

Acronyms and 

abbreviations

AROP

: ‘Administrative reform’ operational programme

DG Economic and Financial Affairs

: European Commission Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs

DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

: European Commission Directorate-General for Employment, Social 

Affairs and Inclusion

DG Regional and Urban Policy

: European Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy

ERDF

: European Regional Development Fund

ESF

: European Social Fund

Fiscalis programme

: EU cooperation programme for national tax administrations

GLF

: Greek loan facility

GSCO

: General Secretariat for Coordination of the Hellenic Republic

IMF

: International Monetary Fund

IRS

: Internal Revenue Service (United States government agency responsible for tax collection and tax law 

enforcement)

MoU

: Memorandum of Understanding

OECD

: Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development

TAIEX

: Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument

TFGR

: Task Force for Greece

07

Executive  

summary

I

In spring 2010, facing severe financial crisis, Greece 

requested financial assistance from the international 

community. The response by the euro-area Member 

States and the IMF was to put in place two successive 

economic adjustment programmes. In summer 2011 

the Commission launched a programme of technical 

assistance (TA) to be coordinated by a body known as 

the Task Force for Greece (TFGR), to help implement 

the reforms agreed by the Commission and the Greek 

authorities.

II

The TFGR focused on supporting implementation of 

the reforms required by the economic adjustment pro-

grammes and accelerating the absorption of EU funds. 

TA was delivered by TFGR staff and experts from the 

civil service in other Member States, from interna-

tional organisations and from the private sector. It 

took a variety of forms: from ongoing support to the 

Greek authorities by resident experts, through studies, 

reports and dedicated workshops.

III

The aim of our audit was to analyse how the TFGR 

had fulfilled its goals. Specifically, we examined 

the TFGR’s organisational and financing arrange-

ments, how TA was actually delivered and monitored, 

and its contribution to the progress of reforms. We 

audited 13 TA projects in detail and obtained other 

evidence through visits to the Commission, service 

providers, Greek government departments and other 

stakeholders.

Good action but …

IV

The TFGR provided the Commission with a flexible 

mechanism for coordinating a broad programme of 

technical assistance. TA was effectively delivered to 

the Greek authorities but it did not always influence 

the progress of reforms. However, this assessment 

has to be seen in the context of the volatile political 

situation in Greece and the urgency imposed by the 

required reforms.

An incomplete entity

V

The urgency of responding to the crisis in Greece 

meant that the TFGR was set up very rapidly, without 

a full analysis of other options and without a dedi-

cated budget. It had no single comprehensive stra-

tegic document for the delivery of TA or for deciding 

between competing priorities, despite the TFGR’s 

mandate to identify and coordinate the TA. In the 

absence of such a document, the TFGR worked with 

the Greek authorities ‘on demand’ and based on the 

programmes’ conditionality.

Relevant TA

VI

Notwithstanding the shortcomings affecting the set-

ting-up of the TFGR, we found that, in all the areas we 

audited, the delivery of TA was relevant and broadly in 

line with the programme requirements. By November 

2014, the TFGR had coordinated 118 TA projects in 12 

policy fields. In doing so, and though always pressed 

for time, the TFGR had developed a flexible and diver-

sified system for the delivery of TA.

Executive summary 

08

Weak procedures in some projects

VII

Overall, the TFGR’s coordination of the complex TA 

delivery process was functional and even innovative, 

but at project level the system did not always prove 

effective. Procedures to select service providers were 

not always based on a thorough analysis of the avail-

able alternatives. Some long-term assistance projects 

had design flaws, in that the contracts signed with 

service providers did not clearly state what they were 

expected to deliver.

Monitoring could be improved

VIII

The TFGR’s system for monitoring the progress of TA 

was effective, but the breadth of checks carried out 

with respect to the work of external providers was 

highly variable. Moreover, it did not systematically 

monitor either the way the Greek authorities followed 

up recommendations or the broader impacts of TA, 

although it would be useful for TA planning.

Looking beyond technical assistance

IX

The impact of TA on the overall progress of reforms 

was mixed. Progress in the area of structural spending 

was good, but TA was often only partially effective in 

public administration and taxation reform. However, 

the implementation of reforms was outside the TFGR’s 

control and subject to a number of external factors.

Our recommendations

(a)  The establishment of any entity for delivering TA 

should be based on a strategy with well-defined 

objectives.

(b)  The Commission should create a pool of external 

experts who could be deployed on an ad hoc basis 

on TA projects in Member States.

(c)  In view of ensuring the coherence of TA and reduc-

ing the coordination effort, in specific policy fields 

the Commission should aim at streamlining the 

number of partners.

(d)  TA should be prioritised and focused and operate 

through the most appropriate and effective imple-

mentation mode in accordance with the existing 

legislative and regulatory framework.

(e)  The Commission should select service providers 

based on a comparative analysis and clearly define 

the scope of deliverables in TA contracts.

(f)  The Commission should ensure that the imple-

mentation of TA is systematically monitored and 

evaluated in the light of objectives set, and lessons 

learned fed back into the process.

(g)  TA should focus on strengthening the capacity of 

national administrations with a view to business 

continuity and the sustainability of reforms.