Key words: evaluation criteria, EU, project application, structural funds
The process of evaluation of project applications for subsidies was based on the inspection of formal features of the applications submitted, an assessment of the eligibility of the projects and the material assessment of projects in the 2007–2013 programming period. The individual stages of the evaluation process were set up similarly within the individual operational programmes. However, there were difference in the form and settings of the material evaluation criteria and their weight in the overall project application evaluation. The managing authorities of operational programmes are obligated to publish such evaluation criteria, so the entities submitting applications for subsidies can learn about the various criteria in advance. What do applicants (in particular entities from among industrial organisations) think about the diversity of the evaluation criteria across the existing operational programmes? Does this practice suit them, or would they prefer unified evaluation criteria across all operational programmes to simplify the project administration process?
The Institute for Evaluation and Social Analyses (INESAN) conducted research in November 2014 focused on the experience of industrial organisations with the particular phases of the process of drawing subsidies from the EU’s structural funds. The data for the survey was obtained through telephone interviews (CATI). The sample included only industrial organisations residing in the Czech Republic, chosen on the basis of random stratified selection. The dataset contains a total of 204 valid cases.
More than half of the industrial organisations (54%) would prefer unified criteria for the submitted applications for subsidies from the EU structural funds. The other entities (46%) believe that the evaluation criteria should be different considering the specificities of the individual operational programmes. The attitude towards the unification (or differentiation) of the evaluation criteria is influenced by whether or not the entity has experience with submitting applications for subsidies under multiple operational programmes. 44% of organisations that submitted an application under just one operational programme would prefer unified evaluation criteria, whereas 57% of the entities that submitted applications under two or more operational programmes would prefer unified evaluation criteria. The opinion on the unification of the evaluation criteria is also influenced by their comprehensibility. The majority of the entities that find such criteria incomprehensible would prefer them to be unified (75%). Out of organisations that consider the evaluation criteria to be comprehensible, less than one half (48%) would prefer them unified. The results furthermore indicate that the rate of preference for unified evaluation criteria decreases with the size of the organisation. The biggest advocates of unifying the evaluation criteria are small organisations (entities with fewer than 50 employees and turnover lower than € 10 million), of which there is 83%. Conversely, in the segment of large organisations (entities with more than 250 employees and turnover exceeding € 50 million), the ratio of advocates of evaluation criteria unification is lower than one half (46%).
The interviewed industrial organisations do not have a definite opinion on the form of the criteria for evaluating project applications for support from the EU structural funds. While there is a slight preference for unifying the evaluation criteria across all operational programmes, a comparison with 2011 shows a decrease of support for unifying the evaluation criteria in the segment of industrial organisations (a decrease of five percentage points from 59% in 2011 to 54% in 2014). Still, it is apparent that there is a good reason for the unification of the evaluation criteria, in particular for entities interested in using a broader range of European fund support under multiple operational programmes.