Questions and answers originally published 22 December 2020
The Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and the UK means that the Interreg FCE projects will be able to continue as planned, under the same arrangements and rules as before. You should carry on delivering your project as planned; the following questions may help if you have specific queries.
The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU confirms that 2014-20 ETC programmes will be able to continue with UK project partners, and UK project partners can continue delivering their projects in line with existing programme rules and timescales.
Yes. The Withdrawal Agreement between the EU means that UK organisations can still apply for funding and can deliver projects until project closure. UK organisations can and should continue to secure funding and deliver successful projects for the current programming period.
The Withdrawal Agreement means that your project can continue as planned, including under the existing terms of your contract. You are still subject to the same eligibility rules as set out in your contract, you still have to follow all audit and first level control requirements, and you will remain liable for any irregular expenditure that you claim.
The Withdrawal Agreement means that your project is still able to continue, and please be reassured that the programme wants to support you to deliver successfully. If you are concerned that you may no longer be able to undertake some activities in full, you should discuss this with your JS contact.
Your project can continue as planned under the existing terms of your contract, and all expenditure remains eligible providing it is delivered in line with the programme eligibility rules as set out in your contract. You will still have to follow all audit and first level control requirements, and you will remain liable for any irregular expenditure that you claim.
Office and administrative expenditure, which includes bank charges for administering an account, is covered by your existing overheads budget line, i.e. a flat rate of [15%] of each partner's staff costs.
If there are any such additional costs, these would be eligible for your project provided they are in line with programme rules and the terms of your contract. You may want to speak with your JS officer to clarify any specifics relating to your project.
Please be aware that the expectation is that you manage this within your existing project budget; any requests for additional budget would need to be managed through the programme’s modification procedures.
Please see guidance on this from gov.uk. This will apply to all UK organisations. You should follow the advice here, including to contact your domain registrar to understand what this means for you. You should also contact your Lead Partner or Joint Secretariat contact to seek their advice.
A number of UK-based ETC project partners have already transferred domain registrations to one of their EU project partners, and this may be something that you wish you explore within your project.
If the UK and the EU reach a data sharing agreement to enable the free flow of data, you can continue sharing data within your project. However, if no agreement is reached, you may be unable to do so in the same way you do now. The programme will ensure you are kept up-to-date on this, and will provide any further guidance as necessary.
More information is available on the gov.uk website.
Yes, you will still be able to access the programme IT systems you need to be able to manage your project and receive payment.
The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU means that the UK will continue to participate in current programmes until they end. UK organisations currently acting as lead partners in projects should therefore continue to undertake all functions and responsibilities as at present.
Questions and answers originally published 21 April 2020
The response to the COVID-19 virus creates significant challenges for us all. We are in an unprecedented situation with very wide-ranging impacts across the wider community.
We recognise that the current situation creates uncertainty and significant challenges to every one of you involved in the delivery of existing projects and the development of projects in the pipeline.
Many of you have raised questions and queries about the continued delivery of the programme and the impact on approved projects and applications in progress. We have provided responses to some of your initial, most common questions below the summary of current EC Guidance.
European Commission Guidance
Audit & Management Verifications: Member States i.e. Managing Authorities are encouraged to perform desk-based verifications where possible until such time as it is safe for staff to perform on-the-spot visits, or postpone until in the 2nd half of 2020. The Audit Authority (AA) should carry out the audit activities as far as possible and once the emergency is over, the AA will be able to assess whether it is necessary to complete the work by visiting the operation on the spot to verify the physical implementation of the project or obtain further clarifications. AA to assess the scope of the activities to be carried out in line with the resources and time available, to ensure submission of the annual control report by 15 February 2021.
First Level Controllers (FLC) may exceptionally avoid carrying out the physical on-the-spot visit as long as the FLC:
Audit Compliance: Management verifications and audits should continue to verify compliance with applicable rules.
Eligibility of Expenditure: Unless otherwise directed by National rules, the legislative framework for the implementation of European Structural and Investment Funds programmes remains fully applicable including for public procurement. The beneficiary should exercise due care to claim any amounts/compensation from insurance or any other sources. Any amounts received by insurance or compensation from other sources (e.g. liability insurance coverage compensating for the non-fulfilment of a contract, travel insurance compensating for travel expenses of a cancelled event, reimbursable travel and accommodation costs, etc.) must therefore be deducted from eligible expenditure.
Flexibility to adjust operations: Where the execution of contracts is impeded because of COVID-19, national authorities should exercise their discretion in permitting substitute performance or delayed performance. National authorities should consider adjusting operations to minimise the impact of the force majeure on the programmes. National authorities could also consider the possibility to select new operations in order to effectively use available resources and to achieve the targets set for the programme.
Force Majeure: It is not clear that the outbreak is necessarily to be regarded as a force majeure event in all cases, the Commission considers that careful analysis and flexibility should be given to all cases where there is failure by beneficiaries to fulfil obligations in a timely manner for reasons related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Selection Criteria and Procurement: legislative framework for the implementation of operational programmes remains fully applicable; need to ensure compliance with relevant EU rules, including provisions on selection of operations as laid down in Articles 65(6) and 125(3) of CPR.
Yes. We recognise how important it is at this time of uncertainty for organisations to maintain cash flow and avoid unnecessary disruption to project finances. Where you are able, please submit your full claim in line with the Grant offer Letter, with supporting documentation as normal, on eMS.
Please provide all of the supporting documentation, where you cannot please provide what you can.
If you are unable to meet the GoL claims deadline please inform the Joint Secretariat (JS), letting your contact know when you expect to submit your claim.
We recognise that it may be difficult to gather some documentary evidence at this time. Where possible please provide the requested evidence. If this isn’t possible in the immediate future, we will not hold up payment of your claim, but we will contact you at a later date to ensure that the relevant evidence is provided.
We will review the need to extend these arrangements for a longer period as the position develops.
You must however ensure that you continue to maintain a complete and robust audit trail as claims will be verified/audited as usual or at a later point by both your FLC and the JS/MA and normal evidence requirements will apply.
No. We recognise that it may not be possible for some projects to operate as normal and that this may impact on performance. We will work with you to reprofile finances and will also consider extensions to end dates, if possible within the programme time frame, to allow projects to catch up.
No. As with finances we will work with you on a case by case basis to review profiles as necessary, it is not necessary to submit a project modification at this point, although may be requested at a later date to confirm agreed outputs. No penalty will be applied for reduced output levels that are agreed by the Managing Authority (MA) in line with the current programme performance guidance.
No. Please note salary costs cannot be covered where delivery has ceased or is temporarily suspended.
It is important to note also that where employers choose to formally redeploy project staff to activities outside of the project, regardless of whether the project continues to deliver or is suspended, those salary costs are ineligible for support.
Yes. In line with the current national eligibility rules, if staff engaged 100% of the time on the project are certified or self-certified as sick, we will pay salary costs and contractual sick pay as normal.
If staff engaged 100% are in isolation and unable to undertake any project work and the employer is obliged to pay them, we will treat this in the same way as sick pay and cover the costs as normal.
Where staff time is only partially spent on a project using either the hourly rates or percentage methodologies these need to be applied using existing rules.
In line with Question 4, if project activity has ceased or is temporarily suspended or staff have been redeployed, costs relating to sick pay are not eligible for support since such will not be working on the project.
No. Where delivery has ceased and employers seek access to support under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the programme will not contribute towards salary costs.
(a) Yes. Part time staff can increase their percentage to cover sick absence.
(b) Staff replacement cost is eligible usually for long term sick absence.
Increase in PT percentage working time and short term replacement costs are eligible as long as there is a contract in place prior to the staff member delivering.
Yes. The European Commission has proposed a series of limited flexibilities under CRII and the Temporary Framework for State Aid in response to the current emergency.
However, until further guidance is issued you must continue to follow current state aid and procurement rules and regulations. We will let you know if the position changes.
Yes. We recognise there are opportunities for existing projects to amend their approach or refocus their support to assist businesses respond to the current situation. It is important to note that the situation is evolving and therefore it may not be possible for JS / MA staff to respond immediately. However, if you wish to revise your project please provide your JS contact with details in the first instance.
Yes. If you wish to adopt remote delivery such as remote or online methods or make other changes to how you deliver the project this is fine. During the crisis we will accept electronic evidence of support if it is not possible to provide hard copies and ‘wet’ signatures and have recently updated our programme manual accordingly. There is a requirement for hard copies and “wet” signatures to follow “once the crisis has subsided”.
Yes. Where a project incurs costs for activities that could not be delivered due to events or decisions beyond their control (e.g. meetings are cancelled by third parties or following Government advice), that expenditure will be eligible as long as the JS / MA is assured that reasonable steps have been taken to minimise that cost, that costs cannot be reimbursed from other sources and clear evidence is maintained of the payment and cancellation status/circumstances.
Yes. If you need additional equipment or software to allow project staff to work remotely this may be included in claims.
In the first instance you should contact your JS contact by email clearly setting out all of the changes you anticipate as far as you are able. Your JS contact will consider and indicate MA consent (where possible) in email form. There will be no requirement for a project modification submission for COVID19 actions unless specifically requested. Modifications for non COVID19 reasons should be submitted as per programme rules.
We recognise it will be difficult for some projects to meet the current deadlines. Where you are able, please submit your application by the agreed deadline. If you are unable to meet the deadlines please contact your facilitator, we will consider extensions on a case by case basis. Further calls for submissions are available later in the year.