FT and Bureau of Investigative Journalism on partnering for EU funds investigation

The Financial Times and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism have shared the details of the “considerable” work behind an eight-month investigation to document the recipients of the European structural fund.

The investigation involved dozens of journalists, researchers and coders being deployed by the FT and the Bureau, according to a report by the paper (requires subscription) on the partnership last night, which resulted in the creation of a database holding more than 600,000 records of projects and beneficiaries.

We downloaded the data, published by national authorities for the first time as part of the current budget round, from more than 100 websites of national and regional bodies. In the process, we examined almost 600 different files in 21 different languages.

The result was a database holding 646,929 records that we are puttting online for our readers to examine.

In its account of the investigation the Financial Times discusses the variation in the accessibility of data from different EU states.

Some EU states are to be commended for how they publish the data, but others have a long way to go. Estonia provides an easy-to use database. Others, such as Bulgaria, provide barely legible documents, and our team had to write a letter to the minister of the economy and make dozens of telephone calls to obtain the data in a useable format.

Meanwhile in its own account the Bureau outlines the steps that had to be taken by those involved.

The effort required to collate all the information was considerable. It involved downloading data from more than 100 websites of national and regional bodies that administer the funds, and captured in nearly 600 different files. This took months to complete.

…We are now, in late 2010, half way through the current spending round, and the database shows how funds have been allocated up to this time. We then went further to find out exactly how the money is being spent on the ground, and this has produced a series of films and news pieces.

Over the next few days the Bureau says, together with a group of international collaborators, it will release a number of stories resulting from the data. The Financial Times will cover the story for five days from today, while Al Jazeera, BBC Radio 4 File-on-Four, BBC World Service and France 2 will also broadcast programmes based on the research.

Leave a Reply