Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are important actors in the implementation of the EU budget. During 2014-2017, the Commission committed an estimated €11.3 billion for implementation by NGOs in many different EU policy areas. Our audit examined the transparency of EU funds implemented by NGOs with special focus on the external action, amongst all policy areas, the largest area where EU funds are implemented by NGOs. We found that the Commission’s identification of entities as NGOs in its systems is not reliable. We assessed the Commission’s selection of NGO-led projects as generally transparent.
However, for some of the audited UN bodies, the selection processes of NGOs were not transparent. The Commission does not always collect and check comprehensive information on all NGOs supported. The information on EU funds implemented by NGOs is published in several systems but the information disclosed is limited. We conclude that the Commission was not sufficiently transparent regarding the implementation of EU funds by NGOs, and that more efforts are needed to improve it. Furthermore, we formulated a number of recommendations for improving the transparency of the EU funds implemented by NGOs.