Special Report 1/2013

2013-01-01 00:00:00

Financial and follow-up audit on the funding received by the Special Account of Research Funds of the Athens Technical University of Athens from the National Strategic Reference Framework

The HCA audit team checked the Special Account for Research Funds (thereafter ELKE) participation in the co-financed Operational Program “Education and Life-long Learning”, run by Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs (thereafter Ministry of Education), in the 4th Programming Period (NRSF 2007-2013), of the financial year 2011. This audit object was selected in order to audit the administration of EU resources and review the effectiveness of systems and procedures established under National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF )2007-2013.

The audit focused on the assessment of management control framework and on its operating effectiveness. In particular: a. the reliability of the accounts of declared expenditure and grants received under NSRF 2007-2013 in accordance with the Greek General Chart of Accounts (GGCA), b. the legality, eligibility and regularity of underlying transactions, c. the design, existence and functioning of the internal controls on the aforementioned areas, and d. the assessment of Public Governance on a general level where existed.

The overall audit message is that, the management control framework of the organization is sound; however, its operating effectiveness can be further strengthened. The main issues identified are:

a) Internal controls that have been weak on projects implementation, with final deliverables either delayed or significantly modified from the initially planned. Shortcomings found in the process of projects implementation not only present the risk of a fiscal correction to be imposed by the Special Secretariat of Ministry of Education but also affect the success of the whole project,

b) the system of project assignment needs to be improved in order to mitigate risks of non-compliance and/or performance. In some cases, the project’s assignment did not fully comply with national legislation, mainly on salary limits and assignment procedures. This may lead to higher contract’s cost and improper stewardship of funds, inadequacies in the justification of contractor’s choice and legality issues,

 c) weaknesses in the accounting software such as the lack of security mechanisms on issuing bank cheques and the synchronization of information between sub-programs, high level of dependency on external IT contractor services and absence of data protection law in the contracts.

Therefore, it is recommended: a.to implement stricter controls on quantity, quality and time limits of deliverables (project implementation). This could be achieved with the use of standardized tools such as checklists, b.to hold adequate trail such as minutes of daily tasks and weekly overviews in order to significantly facilitate the qualitative evaluation and the progress monitoring of deliverables, c.to empower the control activities to prevent non-compliance with legislation and implement the contractor’s selection in a transparent, orderly, effective and efficient way by the use of a legal expertise, d.to improve the operation and functioning of the accounting software by embedding  data flow controls and security mechanisms, f.to minimize the reliance on external contractors by investing on ELKE’s employees, g.to ensure compliance with data protection laws by including relevant notes in ELKE’s contracts. 

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