THE BRITISH Consultants Bureau this week vowed to fight to simplify payment methods for European Union-funded work following the Technical Assistance to Commonwealth of Independent States (Tacis) programme debacle last year (NCE 22 October 1998).
British firms working on Tacis projects were owed about £7M last autumn after not being paid for more than five months. Lobbying by the BCB and Association of Consulting Engineers has recovered about a third of the outstanding cash.
BCB deputy director Nigel Peters called for changes to the payment process to avoid further problems. 'We have addressed the short term difficulties but we are now pressing for general financial regulation to be simplified,' he said.
Concerns over the possibility of fraud and the misuse of funds led the EU to tighten its financial regulation on aid, which Peters described as 'ludicrous'.
'It is extremely difficult for consultants to get the right documentation in some of the countries they are working in,' he added.
Environmental Resources Management director Peter Prynn, whose company had to wait up to eight months for Tacis payments, also called for more action.
'These delays were enough to give us real concern and as a consultant they put us in a very difficult position,' he said.
The EU's external relations service, in charge of payment and procurement for aid programmes outside Europe, is publishing a consultation document on procurement procedures later this month.
Junior minister for the Department for International Development George Foulkes has agreed to let the BCB work with the Government on its response.
BCB has urged all members to claim interest on invoices not paid within 60 days.