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Project finances and administration

What should a project partner expect with regard to the administration of a project implementation?

Majority of the project implementation is content related, that means it is linked to the exchange of experience on the policies addressed.

Nevertheless when joining an Interreg Europe project, partners have to be aware that there are administrative tasks linked to the project implementation as well. In particular, project partners have to prepare financial and content reports on a six-month basis in phase 1 (and on an annual basis in phase 2). These reports are compiled by the lead partner who then submits one progress report to the programme secretariat. Before that, all expenditure of each project partner to be reported to the programme has to be verified by a designated controller in line with the country-specific requirements. Further information is in the programme manual in sections 6 and 7 on project implementation and financial management respectively.

To what extent does Interreg Europe make use of simplified cost options?

Interreg Europe applies a flat rate of 15% of staff costs for administration costs. The programme also pays the preparation costs in the form of a lump sum. Moreover, you will not need to budget phase 2 anymore. We will finance the activities through a lump sum. The lump sum is defined in relation to the number of policy instruments/ action plans to be monitored (for example, for three policy instruments, the total sum for the whole partnership for phase 2 activities is 51,000 EUR). See all details in the programme manual, page 120.

What are preparation costs for?

Preparation costs cover the costs linked to the preparation of the application form. After the approval of the first progress report, Interreg Europe reimburses the preparation costs to all approved projects in form of a lump sum of EUR 15,000 (or in ERDF/ Norwegian funding: EUR 12,750 (85%) and EUR 7,500 (50%)). The lump sum for preparation costs is automatically allocated to the lead partner’s budget. Nevertheless, the partnership should later on share the preparation costs, reflecting the partners’ involvement in the preparation of the application form in a fair and transparent way. It is also important to note that project partners do not need to provide any justification or supporting documents for preparation costs.

What supporting documents must be provided to justify preparation costs?

Project partners do not need to provide any justification or supporting documents for the preparation costs.

Preparation costs are fixed to a lump sum of EUR 15,000 for all approved projects (EUR 12,750 in ERDF - 85%, and EUR 7,500 in Norwegian funding - 50%). This amount will be automatically included in the lead partner’s budget at the application stage and it will be automatically added to the reported lead partner’s expenditure in the first progress report. Nevertheless, the partnership should share the preparation costs in a fair and transparent way, reflecting the partners’ involvement in the preparation of the application form. The details on how the preparation costs will be shared need to be included in the partnership agreement.

How to estimate a reasonable project budget?

There is no general one-size-fits-all solution. The right approach to estimating a reasonable project budget is to first plan the activities to be carried out and in the second step plan the budget according to those activities. Therefore, the overall budget has to be in line with the activities planned, the project’s duration and the number of partners involved. This implies that the detailed budget is always prepared on the basis of the activities needed to meet the project’s objectives and the resources required to carry out these activities within the time allowed.

Based on our experience, you can also keep in mind the following additional tips when building your project’s budget:

  • Staff costs: usually largest share of the total budget, approx. 50%
  • Travel and accommodation costs: is the budget line where the underspending rate is the highest. Please be particularly careful when planning this budget line.
  • External expertise and service costs: usually less than 50% of the total budget
  • Equipment: aim for office equipment not exceeding EUR 5,000 – EUR 7,000 per project.

For more information on how to plan costs in phase 2, please see the following question.

Is estimating the project budget different for phase 2?

The second phase of your project will be dedicated to the action plan implementation and its monitoring. As previously, the activities included in this phase are predefined. In order to ensure timely results, the duration of phase 2 is shortened to one year for all fourth call projects. 

Moreover, you will not need to budget phase 2 anymore. We will finance the activities through a lump sum. The lump sum is defined in relation to the number of policy instruments/ action plans to be monitored (for example, for three policy instruments, the total sum for the whole partnership for phase 2 activities is 51,000 EUR). See all details in the programme manual, page 120. 

How to estimate the budget of an advisory partner?

The budget of an advisory partner should be built around the expertise that it will bring to the whole partnership. Considering that an advisory partner joins the partnership with a different role and focus, this will naturally lead to a different budget structure. Indeed, when planning its budget, an advisory partner should also take into consideration that it will not address a policy instrument and this has several consequences:

  • No action plan is developed;
  • There is no stakeholder group which requires animation

It is also important to note that advisory partners can be designated as lead partner and thus plan a budget to carry out all the tasks related to this role.

Do project partners have to apply the same staff costs calculation method to all of their staff members?

No, the methods applied to calculate staff costs can be different within the same institution. The staff costs calculation should reflect the involvement of each staff member in the project and as such, be based on the employment contract. In this sense, we encourage that for staff members who are involved in the project activities on a continuous basis, partners opt for method 1 or 2 - as described in the programme manual - as much as possible (i.e. full time or fixed percentage methods).

What are the main differences between the centralised and decentralised first level control systems?

Each partner has to certify its reported expenditure before the submission of a progress report through a first level controller who is authorised by the relevant Partner State. Two systems of first level control exist: a centralised system and a decentralised one.

If the partner comes from a centralised country, then the control of its expenditure will be carried out by a public administrative body or by a private audit firm designated beforehand at national level. For instance, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Sweden are countries with a centralised first level control.

The system is slightly different for a partner coming from a country with a decentralised first level control system. In Partner States with decentralised control systems, each partner can propose an external (public procurement rules have to be complied with) or internal (in compliance with national rules) first level controller of its choice. The chosen controller has to be formally approved by the approbation body designated by the Partner State. If, during the project implementation, a new first level control body is appointed, it has to be formally approved by the national designation body. For instance, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom are using a decentralised first level control system.

The detailed requirements per country can be found in the section ‘In my country – First level control information’ on the Interreg Europe website.

If there is no pre-financing, at what point of the project do partners receive the co-funding they have applied for?

Projects should be ready to pre-finance activities for up to approximately 12 months. A reporting period covers 6 months of project implementation. Then there are 3 months to prepare a report for submission to the programme secretariat. Upon receipt of the report, the monitoring, approval and payment usually takes another 3 months.

The Interreg Europe programme will continue its efforts to provide the ERDF to the lead partner as quickly as possible after the approval of a report (payment claim). Usually the payment should be made to the lead partner within 4 weeks after the approval of the report. The lead partner then transfers the individual ERDF amounts to the project partners.

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