Practice category: Cooperation mechanisms
Contact: Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance, Ministero dell'Economia e delle Finanze Ragioneria Generale dello Stato
Fraud risk(s) countered:
- Conflict of interest
- Avoidance or manipulation of public procurement procedures
- Double funding
- Manipulation of project costs
- Others (other fraud risks countered include false declarations, corruption, bid rigging, bid data leaking, manipulation of technical specification and supply of ghost services)
Context and objective(s)
ARACHNE is a datamining tool promoted by the EC to help identify ESI funded projects potentially exposed to the risks of fraud. The MEF Ministry (Economy and Finance – Ragioneria dello Stato) in accordance with the EC decided to further promote the effective use of ARACHNE to all regional and national administrations in Italy in charge of the ERDF and ESF Operational Programs 2014-2020, in order to support fraud prevention.
Description of the practice
At the Monitoring and Control Subcommittee meeting held on 4 June 2018 (See Note MEF-RGS - Prot. 172465 of 04/07/2018) a "restricted” working group was set up by the MEF Ministry. The group is coordinated by the MEF Ministry and composed, among others, of Management and Audit Authorities of some national and regional operational programs with the aim to define the common guidelines and methods for use of the ARACHNE system, for the purposes of compliance with the policies to combat EU fraud envisaged within the Structural Funds.
The working group included:
Friuli Venezia Giulia played a specific role in the work on the adoption of the guidelines, given that their past experience also referred to the 2007/2013 programming period in using the application (contacts: Fabio Cenzon email@example.com and Pietro Sbuelz firstname.lastname@example.org).
The group produced the "Guidelines for the use of the Community anti-fraud system ARACHNE". This 30-page document and related annexes includes:
In particular, it describes the use of the tool by the three Authorities (Managing MA, Certifying CA, Audit AA). For the Managing Authority it specifies:
Italy was the first country to have developed national guidelines with the involvement of key national (MEF) and regional stakeholders. Italy has a decentralised power system, with 19 regions and 2 autonomous provinces.
Unlike other EU Member States, Italy has opted for a centralised data flow for the ERDF and ESF Operational Programs, which is controlled by the National Monitoring System, which in turn is managed by the MEF Ministry. Each Managing Authority transmits the financial, procedural and physical information electronically to the National Monitoring System, through its own information systems. It is therefore necessary that each Managing Authority transmits complete and correct sets of information, in order to guarantee the effective use of the ARACHNE system. Data is transferred to the ARACHNE System on a monthly basis. The information transmitted by the various Management Authorities must comply with the data set information of the National Monitoring System (SNM).
Through the SNM database, the MEF Ministry guarantees the periodic implementation of the EU anti-fraud system ARACHNE.
The MEF Ministry manages requests to access the ARACHNE system. It should be noted that each Authority can only view the data relating to its Operational Programme and that only leading Administrations have a strictly visual access to information pertaining to all Operational Programs, as far as their respective competence is concerned.
Outcomes and results
At the national level, eight meetings took place since October 2018, with the last one organised in July 2019. The national guidelines were finally adopted in the summer of 2019. A version of the guidelines can be found at:
Within this framework, annual training and support was delivered to the other Italian regions (for instance, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardia, Piemonte).
Key success factors
The key success factors were:
- The national coordination and the sharing of experiences between the working group members provided standard and homogeneous indications for all the authorities involved, combining different needs according to the relevant responsibilities (managing or auditing tasks)
- A direct connection with the European Commission DG EMPL and exchanges of experiences with other EU Member States along the process
Challenges encountered & lessons learned
At the beginning, the limited use of the ARACHNE system posed some challenges as the system relies on a data feed to function effectively. The limited use of the system could be due to a low level of knowledge of the actual features and efficiency of the system, as well as a general sense of fear of reporting fraud and risks.
Potential for the transferability
The practice can be highly relevant in EU Member States, such as Spain, who are made up of a large number of regions and have a similar decentralised system.
The guidelines are also useful to prevent fraud in other EU funds besides ERDF or ESF such as the EARDF for rural development.