ESF 2014+ information system was created without major errors. However, some data are inaccurate or incomplete, the MoLSA used the system for checking data only to a limited extent
Press release on Audit No 21/20 – 30 May 2022
The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) examined how the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) used the funds of the Czech state and the European Union for the development, advancement, and operation of the information system of the European Social Fund — ESF 2014+ (ESF IS) between 2015 and 2021. The Ministry paid more than CZK 67 million for the ESF IS which monitors data on persons who have received aid from the European Social Fund. For example, the data includes information on education, position on the labour market, age and gender, but also the type and extent of support associated with the given person. The purpose of this system is to monitor data on persons who have received aid specified in the requirements of European Union. Through data from the ESF IS, the Ministry can also target subsidies or evaluate their impact more easily. The ESF IS was created on the basis of the requirements of the European Union.
The auditors found some weaknesses in the ESF IS, specifically in the area of accuracy and complexity of the data; the use of the IT system for checks was insufficient and there were also errors in the payments for certain services. However, the SAO did not detect fundamental errors in terms of the funds spent on the development, advancement, and operation of the ESF IS.
For example, for 155,000 people out of 450,000, information was lacking on whether they worked in the public or private sector. Furthermore, almost a half of the more than 827,000 records lacked information on whether the monitored persons were employees or self-employed. Furthermore, the beneficiary was able to enter data into the system which were mutually exclusive. This increased the risk of errors.
The SAO also found that although the ESF IS included an application which enabled an easy and quick creation of output sets (i.e., groups of persons grouped according to specific criteria), the MoLSA paid the supplier approximately CZK 600,000 to create new sets or to modify existing ones.
At the same time, a tender procedure for the new ESF IS operator was carried out during the audit. The auditors verified that the MoLSA managed to avoid the risk of vendor lock-in in the tender documentation, i.e., a situation when the Ministry would become dependent on a particular supplier.
Of the more than CZK 67 million spent on the ESF IS, more than CZK 19 million was spent on development, approximately CZK 42 million on advancement and almost CZK 5.8 million on the operation of the ESF IS. As of September 2021, the MoLSA recorded almost 778 thousand people in a total of 18,268 projects supported by three operational programmes — OP Employment, OP Research, Development and Education and OP Prague – Growth Pole of the Czech Republic.
Supreme Audit Office