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EC unblocks some frozen funds

SLOVAKIA will see more than €100 million in EU funds unblocked from four Operational Programmes, while the volume of resources in the remaining five Operational Programmes that remain frozen represents more than €230 million.

SLOVAKIA will see more than €100 million in EU funds unblocked from four Operational Programmes, while the volume of resources in the remaining five Operational Programmes that remain frozen represents more than €230 million.

The EC will decide over the five blocked programmes after talks with the responsible ministries and further verification processes, the TASR newswire reported on September 24.

In total, the audit body looked into 181 payment requests as part of nine operational programmes. The most frequent shortcomings concerned public tenders, selection of projects and the supervision of expenditures. Based on these findings, the audit body filed nine complaints with the National Criminal Agency, 12 with the Anti-monopoly Office and other institutions, and took action against employees found responsible for any shortcomings, according to TASR.

However, Brussels auditors have acknowledged some of the Finance Ministry’s arguments and will unblock four programmes that it stopped financing. Finance Minister Peter Kažimír considers this to be a success, the Sme daily reported.

“It means that because of the quality of the performed audit, European money will no longer be blocked,” said Kažimír, as quoted by Sme.

Brussels will now unblock Slovakia’s access to resources in Operational Programme (OP) Transport, OP Technical Aid, OP Bratislava Region and OP Cross-border Cooperation, according to TASR.

“Aside from the Transport, only operational programmes of low importance are to be unblocked,” Independent MP Miroslav Beblavý said, as quoted by TASR. “All the crucial and problematic operational programmes remain frozen.”

He added that this continues to pose a tangible threat to the state budget and the process of successful drawing of Eurofunds is also at risk since only 15 months remain until the end of the programming period.

Deputy Prime Minister for Investments Ľubomír Vážny presumes that Slovakia will be able to persuade Brussels to unblock other OPs but it will take some time. He failed to say whether someone will be punished personally for the shortcomings, according to Sme.

Nevertheless, Slovakia will lose €80 million, to correct the previous mistakes.

“The result of the specific audit conducted by the Finance Ministry is an estimated correction to the tune of €80 million,” Kažimír said, as quoted by TASR. “This sum is not definite yet, but represents a framework we will not exceed.”

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