One of the most demanding periods of the year from the project coordinator’s point of view is the annual reporting period. This is the time when you are getting an overall feedback from your partners about the progress of the various aspects of the initiative. In an ideal world the coordinator just sends out the appropriate templates to aid the partner’s summary efforts, receives them back, compiles the full report and submits it to the EC.
As most of you have realised we DO NOT live in an ideal world and a coordinator should start being happy when he/she has to deal with only the partner’s financials and the technical parts of the report does not require his immediate assistance. The first periodic report is usually key to assess your consortium’s functionality and competence not just in terms of their assigned role and ability to report on them (having them pushed for weeks for a A4 sheet of text does not suggest a good timely manner), but also regarding their skills on the EC’s financial procedures.
If you have a first-timer among your partners, with no experience in EC reporting procedures you may want to spend some extra time explaining them the potential issues of the Form C or you can also suggest them to attend a relevant course, such as EM offers on a regular basis. Whilst the latter option is obviously easier if you spend some time to “sit” with the partner you may build confidence and appreciation towards yourself and you could earn less hassle for the remaining reporting periods from that partner.
But no matter how hard you try, there always will be issues. The level of seriousness for them may range between believing that RTD stands for “Research, Training, Dissemination” rather than “Research and Technical Development” to the partner claiming 120% of its overall budget as EC contribution in the third year of a five year long project. Of course in such cases the coordinator’s immediate attention is required and you may end up spending long hours on the phone trying to sort out the confusion in the heads remotely just by staring at an excel sheet and conveying your instructions which may not be heard instantly. Such cases put your human relation skills to the test.
Obviously you always have the option to cut corners and do the whole thing for yourself, but in that case they will not learn how to deal with it and you will end up doing their financial reporting for the rest of the project. I assume I do not have to go into details regarding the joy-factor of such activity amidst your many other obligations during this period. What you can do is to instruct the partners WELL IN ADVANCE on their duties, offer them reasonable amount of help and build up a decent amount of patience before your annual reporting period turns into the finish line.