New report shows: EU citizens deserve a higher bar for transparency in Recovery funds


Open Spending Coalition together with 10 central and Eastern European organisations (including Transparency International Estonia) conducted a pilot study on the transparency of the use of recovery funds. The use of the €672.5 billion EU Recovery & Resilience Fund (RRF) remains at significant risk of corruption and misuse.

In the first two years of the RRF, the European Commission failed to set any standard of transparency in how the funds were spent. Some countries themselves have decided to ensure transparency in the spending of RRF budgets but the study shows that this isn’t enough to make sure funds are spent efficiently and effectively to maximize the promised benefits of this enormous sum of taxpayer money for the common market and citizens’ wellbeing.

EU citizens deserve a higher bar for transparency in Recovery funds. Compared with the EU Coalition’s recommended transparency standards, member states publish just under 60% of information on funds’ spending. Without more complete, quality information disclosure, it’s not possible to evaluate an accurate level of risk in the remaining 40% of data.

Researchers examined not only which data is published, but also how. This is critical because information and data must be easily accessible, complete, timely, preferably collected in one place, and allow for machine-readable analysis. When it’s not, civic actors, businesses, academics and the media cannot use the information to understand how the funds have been spent and help spot risks to investigate or opportunities to save money or improve the goods and services citizens are getting.

Some of the most open countries according to the survey of 10 EU countries are Bulgaria, Estonia, and Lithuania, who also publish the highest quality data from a user-friendly perspective. These countries publish around 80% of spending data on investments. On the other side of the transparency axis are Romania and the Czech Republic. Both countries only publish about 30% of the data required to enable citizens and businesses to understand what the funds are spent on, for how much, and who receives them.

“Transparent use of the Recovery and Resilience Fund is closely linked to public trust in government. The different transparency and disclosure practices of the Member States show that there is still no common practice. From Estonia’s point of view, we have taken important steps, but we should cooperate with the Commission and other member states on the recommendations of the report in order to strengthen and expand the good practice of the leaders.Everyone can contribute and learn from their experience, including Estonia,” said Steven-Hristo Evestus, CEO of Transparency International Estonia.

Important recommendations include that the EU should introduce higher and cleaner standards of personal data disclosure in the EU funds-related regulations, and member states should create central portals like in Lithuania or Bulgaria containing all available public information about public spending from the planning process to contract execution.

The EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is a historic intervention by the EU, with €672.5 billion being given out to Member States to boost reforms and investments to mitigate the economic and social impact of the pandemic. Accountability and transparency on how money is spent - and on who - is critical to ensure the RRF at the core of this investment delivers in making European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions.

On the Estonian side, NGO Transparency International Estonia participated in conducting the survey and analysing the data.