The primary purpose of the ‘Evaluation of e-Cohesion 2014-2020’ was to enable policy learning by evaluating the implementation of e-Cohesion – i.e. the electronic exchange of information between beneficiaries of Cohesion policy programmes and programme authorities – during the 2014-2020 programming period. The evaluation covered the e-Cohesion systems set up in all 27 Member States for Operational Programmes supported by the ERDF and CF, including programmes under the territorial cooperation objective (Interreg).
This evaluation had two objectives. First, to collect and provide up-to-date information on the implementation and performance of e-Cohesion systems during the 2014-2020 programming period, and to identify good practice systems that could help to inspire the further development of e-Cohesion systems in other Member States. To enhance the possible learning effect, the evaluation also sought to identify the challenges and difficulties encountered by the Member States in setting up e-Cohesion systems. Second, building on the data collected, evaluation aimed to identify options for possible avenues for improvement to ensure that the users of e-Cohesion systems can make the most of the simplification potential of e-Cohesion.
To provide answers to the evaluation questions on relevance, coherence, effectiveness, user-friendliness, efficiency, EU added value, the study team:
- mapped e-Cohesion systems across all EU27;
- provided in-depth analysis of five selected e-Cohesion systems (informed by desk research and interviews);
- carried out surveys of beneficiaries of ERDF and CF interventions, and authorities (Managing Authorities, Intermediate Bodies, Certifying Authorities, and Audit Authorities);
- summarised the information collected in 27 country fiches for the Member States and one for Interreg programmes,
- identified key remaining challenges and potential solutions for further improving the electronic exchange of information between authorities and beneficiaries.
The data collected indicate the large scope of e-Cohesion: the evaluation mapped 108 e-Cohesion systems, covering all EU27 Member States, including Interreg programmes. Overall, these systems are well-developed, with most systems addressing the requirements in terms of key principles, processes, functionalities and data security requirements. The systems and their various aspects enjoy high levels of user satisfaction; both the national authorities and beneficiaries that use e-Cohesion systems believe that the benefits of e-Cohesion are higher than the associated costs, and that the systems brought about improvements in all aspects of information exchange, compared to paper-based exchanges. Based on its findings, the evaluation has synthesised a set of potential solutions for programme authorities, which can be useful for addressing the identified challenges. The key point for improvement is interoperability with other electronic systems and registers, as well as reducing the parallel data exchanges that are still taking place.