OVERDUE PAYMENTS worth millions of pounds to British consultants are being further delayed by fierce infighting between two European Commission departments, it was claimed this week.
A senior European source said battle lines had been drawn between the Service Commune Relations Exterieur, which harmonises the four main EU aid programmes, and DG19, which oversees budget control.
The two departments have failed to agree on a strategy to speed up payment for work undertaken through the Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States scheme. Invoices for TACIS projects have been paid up to 18 months late and last week Scott Wilson revealed it was owed nearly £1M.
NCE's source said the SCR's remit to streamline contract management was being obstructed by bureaucracy and fragile inter-departmental relations. He claimed the SCR had become frustrated by the non co-operation of DG19 and had 'tried to slip in new measures without consent. Those measures have been traced and blocked'.
Currently companies working on TACIS contracts must submit invoices to the SCR, which are then cross-checked by DG19. This includes verification from monitors at the project sites. The SCR is said to want to replace monthly measurement with lump-sum payment. But DG19 fears this would lay TACIS open to fraud.
Faster payment is thought to be unlikely before the start of 2000, when four directorates will be centralised under the SCR.
The tension between DG19 and the SCR comes just as the departments are resolving a dispute over the balance between price and quality in bids for development projects.