During this Expert Session Melanie Büscher guided us through five foundational practices for Horizon 2020 financial management, explaining why they are important and how they make project management under H2020 easier.
1. Documentation requirements – record all your expenses, including time
Melanie emphasized that EU contributions to Horizon 2020 projects are a reimbursement of the costs you have incurred. Therefore, it is your responsibility to document the costs that you claim to the EU. How can you do that in the best way? First, Melanie outlined the most common errors in H2020 that largely are errors in personnel cost calculation, e.g. unreliable timesheets or missing supporting documents. Remember, that if your expenses are not properly documented, they are not eligible for EU funding. Then, Melanie shared with us her best practices in this field.
2. Use of resources – purposefully link your expenses to the work packages
When you get to the financial reporting at the end of a next project period, you have to describe how you used and distributed resources. This is about documenting what were your expenses and how did you spend them. The personnel costs you have to make a distribution of Person Months per work package. As Melanie said, the same thing is true for most other costs - you are asked to do a distribution per work package, for example, for individual subcontractors.
3. Sound financial management – always counter quote
In order to be eligible, costs must be reasonable and must comply with the principle of sound financial management, in particular regarding economy and efficiency. Melanie underlined that you have to show the EC that your project money was spent wisely, as this is about spending EU tax-payers money, about the financial regulation of the EU in general. In this line, all project partners must base their purchases either on the best value for money (considering the quality of the service, good, or work proposed) or on the lowest price. That is often not an easy task, but Melanie shared with us her experiences and gave her best practices how to demonstrate best-value-for-money in the best way.
4. Budget transfers – there is a bit of freedom in the budget
As Melanie pointed out, while H2020 project administration is very rigid, there is also surprisingly big room for maneuver with regards to the budget. If there is a significant change of the project tasks compared to how you have originally described them (e.g. if tasks are added/ removed) or if you distribute the work differently than originally described, you can still make changes – but you also have to change Annex 1, together with the EU. Therefore, Melanie recommends reporting and claiming the costs that you have actually incurred, even though they deviate from the original budget.
5. Some specificities with regarding the cost categories – sharpen your attention on different contracts and their categorizing
While reporting, you should make sure that you are reporting the costs in the right cost category. In this regard, Melanie drew our attention to three core points, namely service contracts, affiliated entities, and internal consultants, and gave explanations to each of them.