Procedure : 2016/0817(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0375/2016

Texts tabled :

A8-0375/2016

Debates :

Votes :

PV 14/12/2016 - 9.13
CRE 14/12/2016 - 9.13
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2016)0500

REPORT     
PDF 493kWORD 61k
8.12.2016
PE 594.026v02-00 A8-0375/2016

on the nomination of Juhan Parts as a Member of the Court of Auditors

(C8-0445/2016 – 2016/0817(NLE))

Committee on Budgetary Control

Rapporteur: Bart Staes

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION
 ANNEX 1: CURRICULUM VITÆ OF Juhan Parts
 ANNEX 2: ANSWERS BY Juhan Parts TO THE QUESTIONNAIRE
 PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION

on the nomination of Juhan Parts as a Member of the Court of Auditors

(C8-0445/2016 – 2016/0817(NLE))

(Consultation)

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 286(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C8-0445/2016),

–  having regard to Rule 121 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0375/2016),

A.  whereas Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control proceeded to evaluate the credentials of the nominee, in particular in view of the requirements laid down in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

B.  whereas at its meeting of 5 December 2016 the Committee on Budgetary Control heard the Council’s nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors;

1.  Delivers a favourable opinion on the Council’s nomination of Juhan Parts as a Member of the Court of Auditors;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Council and, for information, the Court of Auditors, the other institutions of the European Union and the audit institutions of the Member States.


ANNEX 1: CURRICULUM VITÆ OF Juhan Parts

Education:

Gustav Adolf Gymnasium (former Tallinn Secondary School No. 1) 1984; University of Tartu, law (cum laude) 1991

Career:

Ministry of Justice, Deputy Secretary General 1992–1998; Auditor General 1998–2002;

Prime Minister 2003–2005;

Minister of Economy and Communications 2007–2014 Current member of Riigikogu

Party affiliation:

Res Publica/Pro Patria and Res Publica Union 2002–, Chairman 2002– 2005, Vice-Chairman

Membership in representative bodies:

10th and 11th Riigikogu, 12th Riigikogu (Deputy Chairman of faction 2014–2015), 13th Riigikogu (Chairman of faction); elected to Tallinn City Council 2002–2013

Awards:

Order of the National Coat of Arms, 2nd class 2008; Grand Officer of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique, Portugal 2003; Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy 2004;Grand Cross Grade of the Spanish Order of the Civil Merit 2007;Commander 1st Class of the Order of the Polar Star of the Kingdom of Sweden 2011; Order of the Three Stars of Latvia, 3rd Class 2012;Commander’s Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Lithuania 2013; Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland 2014; Badge of Honour of the Estonian Former Forest Brethren Association 2005.


ANNEX 2: ANSWERS BY Juhan Parts TO THE QUESTIONNAIRE

Professional experience

1.  Please list your professional experience in public finance be it in budgetary planning, budget implementation or management or budget control or auditing.

My main experience of posts in the fields concerned is as follows:

-  As vice-chancellor at the Ministry of Justice (1992-1998), I was also responsible for managing the administration of justice at civil service level. That responsibility entailed establishing judicial institutions and preparing, accounting for and monitoring their budgets. The main judicial institutions were: the courts of first and second instance (23 in total), the National Public Prosecutions Department and regional public prosecutions departments (16 in total), prisons (9), probation offices (15) and court registries (15).

-  Member of the board of the Estonian Privatisation Agency (1993-1996). The field of responsibility of the Privatisation Agency was restructuring virtually all state-owned undertakings, preparing them for privatisation, privatising them and monitoring compliance with obligations applicable after privatisation. This was a substantial task, which in the course of various periods embraced hundreds of businesses for which the Privatisation Agency was responsible. In addition to performance of the normal functions of owners, this work also included special monitoring and audits.

-  As the state auditor (1998-2002), I was responsible for external audit duties in Estonia. The principal task during that period was to turn the National Audit Office into a modern and effective audit organisation which complied with international audit standards (for financial audits, compliance audits and performance audits).

In addition, the National Audit Office was an active contributor to the overhaul of the whole financial management system of the State in cooperation with Parliament and the government. The reform of the State’s financial management system comprised: establishing a clear and logical management, reporting and audit chain in the executive structure, converting ordinary annual reports on the implementation of the State budget into complete consolidated State financial reports, and the application of international internal control requirements for the public sector, together with internal audit requirements. Tasks of the National Audit Office came to include an annual audit and compliance audit of the State’s financial reports.

In addition, the National Audit Office also gradually began to apply the performance management and 3E principles in the public sector, and, in order to promote performance management, conducted a whole series of performance audits.

A particular focus of attention was the cooperation of the National Audit Office with the Estonian Parliament. We set up a Public Accounts Committee and established a procedural routine for reports by the National Audit Office in 2004, during my term as Prime Minister.

The whole of this reform was broad-based and required very far-reaching changes within the National Audit Office as well. We implemented those changes in cooperation with experts from the OECD’s Sigma programme, with the supreme audit institutions of Holland and Sweden as partners. A key feature of the strategic development plan was an extensive in-house training programme on the philosophy, methodology and techniques of financial audits and performance audits.

I also established cooperation with the ECA, because during that period it became possible, for the first time, for Estonia to use the various funds provided by the European Union.

From 1998 to 2002, I was a member of the board of EUROSAI, the European Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions, and took part in various projects concerned with elaborating audit methods to facilitate cooperation between supreme audit institutions.

-  Under the Estonian Constitution, the Prime Minister (an office that I held from 2003 to 2005) is head of the executive. We established a requirement for State institutions to draw up performance-based action plans and reports; we organised a State strategic management framework (development plans, long-term policies and budget planning for them).

A Public Accounts Committee was set up within the Estonian Parliament, with appropriate procedures, powers and obligations.

We adopted and applied the first comprehensive Strategy for Corruption Prevention and Anti-Corruption Measures, which also included requirements concerning managerial responsibility, internal monitoring and audits for the public sector and publicly owned companies.

With accession to the European Union in 2004, appropriations from the European Structural Funds became fully available. This required a thorough overhaul in the public sector in order to comply with all the requirements imposed by the European Union as regards management and control systems for public funding.

-  The Minister for Economic Affairs and Communications (my post from 2007 to 2014) bears political and managerial responsibility for the management of all public funds entrusted to him and for reporting on and auditing their use. The Minister’s field of responsibility included the use of appropriations from various EU structural and regional funds (enterprise, innovation, energy market, transport, e-Estonia or the application of ICT, telecommunications and tourism). During the period of the EU’s 2007-2013 financial framework, I was responsible for formulating and applying policies for the use of this funding, and I was in charge of preparations and negotiations for the 2014-2020 programme period. That enabled me to gain wide-ranging knowledge and experience of management, reporting and audits directly concerned with the use of European Union funds. I would observe that Estonia has always been one of the most efficient and successful countries when it comes to investing European Structural Fund appropriations in socio-economic development.

The Minister for Economic Affairs carries out tasks with regard to the general meeting of undertakings that are either wholly or partially State-owned. During my term of office, I was in charge of some 25 of them (e.g. energy undertakings, a port, the railways, the post office, airports, export credit, etc.). The general meeting has the task of deciding the so-called ‘Owner’s expectations’, monitoring their implementation, adopting audited annual reports, where necessary initiating special audits and deciding internal audit requirements.

As a Member of the Estonian Parliament (from 2014 to the present), I sit on the Committees on European Union and Foreign Affairs. Under Estonian law, the Committee on European Union Affairs has the task of approving all Estonia’s positions on the various issues under discussion in the various formations of the Council of the EU, including following the use of appropriations from the EU Structural Funds and hearing the government’s reports on the state of play.

2.  What have been your most significant achievements in your professional career?

For the past 25 years I have constantly been employed in various public offices. Estonia regained its independence in 1991. The Soviet occupation came to an end. In these 25 years, the Estonian people have built a free, democratic, European state, based on the market economy and civil society, on the ruins of the Soviet empire. I had a unique opportunity to make my own contribution to that historical process. A brief list of my most essential achievements:

-  The establishment of a modern legal system (laws, institutions, information systems). The creation of Estonia’s new private law (Civil Code, Commercial Code), and the establishment of institutions in support of the protection of property, of the open market economy and of private enterprise were initial successful reforms of the economy. As vice-chancellor at the Ministry of Justice, I was in charge of this process at civil-service level.

-  The establishment of a modern National Audit Office which complies with international audit standards, which has strengthened parliamentary control over the executive and upholds best practices in the financial management of the public sector.

-  When I was Prime Minister of Estonia, we successfully completed the process of accession to the European Union, and Estonia acceded in 2004. I had the task of developing Estonia’s image as a new member of the EU, creating a membership strategy and adopting a comprehensive EU policy. Estonia also joined NATO in 2004. My government had the job of creating a new national security and defence strategy, taking into account our becoming part of NATO’s collective defence. In order to tackle the economic challenges facing Estonia, my government initiated, and began to implement, a strategy to change Estonia from a low-wage economy to one based on innovation. In order to improve the climate for enterprise and ensure efficient use of public funds, the government which I headed adopted a comprehensive Strategy for Corruption Prevention and Anti-Corruption Measures.

-  As Minister for Economic Affairs, my fields of responsibility comprised enterprise, innovation, the EU internal market, tourism, monitoring competition, consumer protection, energy, transport, post and telecommunications, e-Estonia, construction and housing; state owned undertakings, support for start-up ecosystems.

-  The aim of the Innovation Strategy (2007-2013) was to support structural change in Estonia’s economy from a low-wage economy to an innovation-based economy. In terms of innovation, Estonia now ranks in the middle of the EU league table.

-  The complete opening of the energy market and implementation of investment measures in support of the functioning of the market (ESTLINK 2, BEMIP programme). Nowadays, Estonia enjoys a higher degree of energy security than most other countries, and at the same time the proportion of renewable energy in its energy mix has grown substantially.

An inseparable aim of energy policy was to motivate businesses to invest in new, competitive production methods with high environmental standards. In order to ensure energy security and security of supply and in order to replace production facilities from the 1960s which did not comply with European requirements, we supported investment in the new power station at Narva and the reserve station at Kiisa, in close cooperation with the European Commission.

One of the strategic issues in Estonia’s energy policy is modernisation of the oil-shale chemical industry, and innovation in it. One of its components was undoubtedly also encouraging internationalisation of the relevant undertakings. The greatest progress has been made with the comprehensive development project of Eesti Energia AS in cooperation with the government of Jordan (involving investment of some EUR 2 billion at the first stage), in which undertakings from Malaisia and China with experience of the relevant field have majority holdings. Regrettably, false information and misinterpretations have been disseminated publicly in Estonia regarding these energy investments.

-  e-Estonia as the comprehensive development of the digital society. The Minister for Economic Affairs is responsible for the basic infrastructure of the e-State (the rules of the digital society, personal identity in cyberspace, the X-road, the uniform architecture for State databases), and coordinates the development of unitary public e-services throughout the public sector. In 2013 we initiated a global e-residence project.

-  The priorities in transport logistics were as follows: as Estonia’s principal trading partners are in the EU, it was necessary to develop competitive road, rail, sea and air communications and rules in support of them. For centuries, Estonia has been a crossroads in trade between east and west. In order to make better use of the opportunities which that affords, modern infrastructure needs to be developed, bilateral and multilateral international agreements need to be concluded and intensive international cooperation needs to be pursued (including with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China).

-  In transport policy, the Estonian Government’s investments in the national airline Estonian Air were much commented on. In 2010-2011, the Estonian Government decided to make a capital injection into the undertaking on the basis of the private market investor principle, which is permitted on the European internal market, together with private investors. The undertaking’s business plan, which had been drawn up together with aviation consultants, was intended to enable the business to grow, in order to more effectively guarantee the communications necessary for the development of Estonia’s economy. Regrettably, the undertaking encountered various obstacles to implementation of the business plan. The government therefore launched a State aid procedure in accordance with the guidelines on restructuring of companies in difficulty.

-  We solved the problem of ice-breaking capacity which had hampered marine shipping for decades on the basis that it was a more profitable investment for a State-owned undertaking (the multifunctionality of an ice-breaker facilitates considerably more service in ocean and marine construction and research projects in spring and autumn), and the State was permitted to buy ice-breaking capacity considerably more cost-effectively than before. In cooperation with the European Commission, and, using appropriations from the European Structural Funds, we made the biggest investment in environmentally sound public transport in the past 20 years. The form which that took was that, in cooperation with the appropriate undertaking, we replaced much of the rail rolling stock serving the whole of Estonia. Colloquially, the new trains were dubbed ‘Parts’s carrots’ (the trains are carrot-coloured, i.e. orange). This investment also afforded excellent support for the effective use of EU funds and helped to make the EU more popular.

-  Measures to tackle the economic crisis of 2008-2009: intensive adaptation measures in both the private and the public sector; a programme of measures in support of businesses’ exports and internationalisation. Access to venture capital (the public-law Development Fund) and the establishment of the Start-up Programme accelerated the launch and development of business start-ups in Estonia. Another important step was the increase in public investment as a vital measure to stimulate the economy at a time of crisis. Estonia joined the euro zone in 2011.

3.  What has been your professional experience of international multicultural and multilinguistic organisations or institutions based outside your home country?

-  When establishing the justice system, we involved various legal and economic experts from the Federal Republic of Germany, Holland, the USA, Finland and Sweden. These were not one-off projects but a long-term cooperation programme to develop all aspects of a modern state governed by the rule of law (experts on legislation, comprehensive training programmes, cooperation seminars and scientific conferences).

-  As the state auditor, I was a member of the board of EUROSAI. Strategic development partners of the National Audit Office were experts from OECD SIGMA, while cooperation partners came from the National Audit Offices of Holland and Sweden.

-  The Prime Minister represents Estonia in the European Council, and is responsible for developing wide-ranging bilateral international relations. The Prime Minister chairs work in the Council of the Baltic Sea States at head-of-government level and also NB8 (Nordic-Baltic 8) and the Baltic Council.

-  As Minister for Economic Affairs, I represented Estonia in the EU Competition Council and the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council. Estonia joined the OECD in 2012, and the Minister for Economic Affairs was responsible for discussions in a wide range of fields. I also headed the team which negotiated Estonia’s membership of the International Energy Agency. I have represented Estonia in various international organisations (e.g. the International Telecommunications Union, the International Postal Union, ICAO etc.). As co-chairman on behalf of the Republic of Estonia, I have chaired several bilateral intergovernmental committees: the Estonia-Ukraine intergovernmental committee; the Estonia-Kazakhstan intergovernmental committee; the Estonia-Azerbaijan intergovernmental committee. Those intergovernmental committees concerned themselves not only with cooperation over economic affairs and trade but also dealt with culture, education and other areas of life.

-  I have participated in many international fora (including the World Economic Forum, Crans Montana Forum, etc.) and have appeared as a speaker at events organised by international think tanks (e.g. the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation).

4.  Have you been granted discharge for the management duties you carried out previously, if such a procedure applies?

Under Estonian law, the Estonian Parliament approves annually the government’s report on implementation of the State budget, having heard the opinion of the National Audit Office. From the legal point of view, this procedure differs in many respects from the discharge procedure which applies in the European Parliament.

5.  Which of you previous professional positions were a result of a political nomination?

The vice-chancellor at the Ministry of Justice is a public official, and his appointment is not political. The principle of a professional civil service has been in force in Estonia since 1992.

The State auditor is appointed by Parliament at the proposal of the President of the Republic and, as far as party affiliation is concerned, is required to be impartial and independent.

In Estonia, governments have always been coalition governments: they require political agreements among the parties. As a rule, the person appointed Prime Minister is the leader of the party which has polled the most votes in an election and can form a coalition government capable of functioning. The candidate for the post of Prime Minister is nominated by the President of the Republic, and he or she requires a vote of confidence in Parliament.

Candidates for ministerial office are nominated by the bodies in charge of the parties which are forming the coalition government in accordance with the distribution of portfolios among the parties. The candidates proposed by the parties have to be approved by the Prime Minister, who makes a corresponding proposal to the President of the Republic.

6.  What are the three most important decisions to which you have been party in your professional life?

-  The referendum on Estonia’s accession to the European Union in September 2003. In the referendum, 67% voted in favour of accession and also approved a corresponding amendment to the Constitution. As head of the government, I was one of the advocates of a vote in favour.

-  The status of Estonia’s legal system as part of the legal system of continental Europe. It was a very fundamental political and cultural choice after the restoration of independence to decide what kind of legal-system principles should form the basis for the rebuilding of the Estonian State in 1992.

-  Estonia’s joining the euro zone and also the strategy for coping with the economic crisis of 2008-2009.

-  In addition there have been many other very weighty decisions. See also the answers to Questions 1-3.

Independence

7.  The Treaty stipulates that the Members of the Court of Auditors must be 'completely independent' in the performance of their duties. How would you act on this obligation in the discharge of your prospective duties?

I intend to comply fully with the requirements of independence arising from the Treaty on European Union and the ECA’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct. I also abide by the principles adopted by the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) in its Lima and Mexico Declarations.

As a member of the ECA, I would strictly avoid any kind of situations which could result in a conflict of interests. This means that, in performing my duties, I would neither seek nor accept instructions from any government or any other body. I would refrain from any action incompatible with my future duties. In performing my duties, I shall be guided solely by the common interests of the European Union.

8.  Do you or your close relatives (parents, brothers and sisters, legal partner and children) have any business or financial holdings or any other commitments, which might conflict with your prospective duties?

Neither I nor any of my close relatives have business or financial holdings or any other commitments which might conflict with my prospective duties as a member of the ECA.

9.  Are you prepared to disclose all your financial interests and other commitments to the President of the Court and to make them public?

I will disclose all my financial interests and other commitments to the President of the Court of Auditors, and it is standard practice to publish them. In the past 18 years, as required by Estonian law, I have disclosed my financial interests and other commitments to the appropriate committee (currently Parliament’s Special Committee Against Corruption), which has also published those declarations.

10.  Are you involved in any current legal proceedings? If so, please provide us with details.

No, I am not involved in any current legal proceedings.

11.  Do you have any active or executive role in politics, if so at what level? Have you held any political position during the last 18 months? If so, please provide us with details.

I was elected to the Estonian Parliament in the general elections of 2015. In the Estonian Parliament, I am a member of the Committee on European Union Affairs and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, as well as a member of my parliamentary party. I belong to the bureau and the council of the party Isamaa ja Res Publica Liit.

12.  Will you step down from any elected office or give up any active function with responsibilities in a political party if you are appointed as a Member of the Court?

Yes, I will resign my membership of the Estonian Parliament and all the party posts to which I have been elected (bureau, council).

13.  How would you deal with a major irregularity or even fraud and/or corruption case involving persons in your Member State of origin?

Fraud, corruption or grave irregularities undermine the foundations of any democratic society. Every citizen has a duty to combat them.

In all my previous posts, I have shown zero tolerance towards the abuse of public funds. I consider the role of both preventive action and effective control functions to be essential.

If in my future post I were to be confronted by irregularities from my country of origin, I would act impartially, so I would deal with such cases in the same way as with cases originating in any other Member State.

At the ECA, appropriate procedures have been instituted for dealing with such cases. I intend to abide scrupulously by the relevant rules.

If a case were to concern people whom I already knew, I would consider it necessary to consult the President of the ECA on the specific matter. In cases of fraud and corruption, it is vital that action should not only be correct but should also be seen to be correct. In certain cases the best solution may be for the member from the Member State concerned to transfer responsibility for certain sections of audits to a member from another Member State.

Fulfilment of obligations

14.  What should be the main features of a sound financial management culture in any public service? How could the ECA help to enforce it?

Budget funds available for use by the public sector come from the taxpayer’s pocket. The same is true of the EU budget. Taxpayers have a legitimate right to know whether their money has been used in the best possible way. In other words, budget funds must be used in accordance with the principles of sound financial management – money must be used economically, efficiently and effectively.

Similarly, it is stipulated by EU law (the Treaty and the Financial Regulation) that budget funds must be used in accordance with the principles of sound financial management.

Basic requirements of sound financial management are that the management, reporting and control/audit chains must be established clearly and logically:

-  The budget, the objectives and the desired outcomes are decided by the institutions which approve the budget;

-  The institution responsible for implementing the budget has the requisite resources and powers to attain the desired outcomes and duly applies the agreed policies;

-  The institution responsible for implementing the budget reports with the regularity agreed on the use of the funds and the attainment of the objectives;

-  The control/audit institutions (particularly the supreme audit institution) give an assurance that the information supplied by the executive is correct and pertinent, both to the institution which approves the budget and to the general public;

-  The institutions which decide on the budget consider the executive’s activity report carefully with the aim of giving taxpayers an assurance that their money has been used in a regular and effective manner. In the event of problems, the executive is given clear directions on how to improve the situation.

Here I would emphasise that, in the case of all these procedural steps, it is vital to ensure that decisions and reporting are transparent. It is essential that it should be equally clear to everybody what the Commission and the institutions of the Member States were supposed to achieve and what they have in reality achieved.

The relevant reports must not only contain thousands of facts but must be readily accessible and comprehensible in consolidated form for Parliament and the public.

As the EU’s supreme audit institution, the ECA can and must make its own contribution to ensuring that the aforesaid management, reporting and control chains operate sensibly and effectively. Above all, naturally, it must be ensured that it performs its minimum role impeccably, which means that it reports on whether the executive’s performance and reporting ensure economical, efficient and effective use of funds.

I believe that the ECA should also devote more attention to improving the general management of the use of all EU funds. The recent Special Report No 27/2016 on ‘Governance at the European Commission — best practice?’ is a step in the right direction. I can only support the ECA’s position that the Commission should set an example in the field of management and play a pioneering role in developing best practices.

15.  Under the Treaty, the Court is required to assist Parliament in exercising its powers of control over the implementation of the budget. How would you further improve the cooperation between the Court and the European Parliament (in particular, its Committee on Budgetary Control) to enhance both the public oversight of the general spending and its value for money?

At present, still viewing things as an observer, it seems that cooperation between the ECA and the European Parliament, and particularly its Committee on Budgetary Control, is constantly ongoing. The ECA’s contribution is visible. It seems that, quantitatively, certain limits have even been reached. Some 40 reports on performance audits per annum ought to be more than enough, numerically.

The ECA can help the European Parliament with aspects of monitoring of the implementation of its budget, particularly by producing more appropriate audit reports at the right time. For this purpose, it should itself be capable of performing auditing work at a higher level. However, it is also vital to be actively responsive to Parliament’s wishes concerning possible topics for audits.

I believe that in order to improve the impact of the ECA’s audits, it is essential for them also to be debated by other Parliament committees. It is of course a matter for sovereign internal decision by Parliament to decide how to organise its work, but for example discussion of audits concerning agriculture which are of a technical nature could provide the appropriate committee with very useful information.

Personally, I am prepared to use all my experience in support of cooperation between these two institutions in order to promote the success of the European project. I believe that, by means of its work, the ECA can help the European Parliament to a significant extent and thus also help to restore public confidence in the EU and its institutions.

16.  What added value do you think performance auditing brings and how should the findings be incorporated in management procedures?

When I was the State auditor in Estonia, I devoted particular attention to the development of performance audits. However, I did that not only with the aim of developing modern audit products but primarily to use performance audits to raise the whole public administration to a new level.

The effectiveness of performance audits is surely derived primarily from the correct and well-timed selection of topics. No matter how perfectly an audit is conducted, it is of little added value to society if it concerns inessential matters. The ECA’s peer review of 2014 makes many valuable recommendations on how to further develop the ECA’s expertise in the field of performance audits.

The yardstick for the effectiveness of performance audits should be changes in the actual environment. The actual solution of problems, not the number of proposals accepted and acted upon. I am bearing in mind that the success of the auditor and of the body being audited is not measured according to the recommendations accepted and acted upon. That soon leads to a situation in which mutually convenient proposals are formulated. In many cases it is necessary to break the executive’s routines in a good way, and in such situations the comprehension and support of the European Parliament is essential.

In order for performance audits to be effective, it is essential to have a partner who is interested in solving the problems raised by those audits. The ECA has an excellent partner in the Committee on Budgetary Control. There cannot be the slightest doubt that your committee performs parliamentary control over the actions of the executive in the most direct sense of the term. At the same time it is vital that the body being audited (in this case the Commission) should learn the nature of problems and take substantive action to remedy the situation.

One vital aspect of performance audits is the possibility of not only focusing on negative aspects. A performance audit can also be very effective if it establishes good practices and communicates them.

17.  How could cooperation between the Court of Auditors, the national audit institutions and the European Parliament (Committee on Budgetary Control) on auditing of the EU budget be improved?

The TFEU calls for the ECA and the supreme audit institutions of Member States to cooperate in a spirit of trust while maintaining their independence.

Such cooperation functions under the aegis of a so-called Contact Committee. I know from my own earlier experience that the ECA is constantly active in pursuing this form of cooperation. For my part, I am always prepared to support intensification of audit cooperation between the ECA and Member States’ supreme audit institutions.

I consider there to be greater potential for such cooperation in the field of performance auditing. And that is particularly the case in fields where it would be effective to audit global problems through international cooperation. For example, problems of global warming and energy could usefully be tackled by means of the broadest possible approach. The Contact Committee also recently expressed its support for intensifying cooperation in these fields.

Where compliance audits are concerned, the ECA should be open and share its audit methods (for example audit questionnaires on agricultural support) with all audit and control institutions that are interested in the matter. That would make it possible to guarantee that the controls which are to be performed were of the same extent, and therefore all the institutions in the control chain could use one another’s work better. For various reasons, the practice to date with regard to joint audits with the Member States has not produced the desired results. At the same time, I would point out that a good many supreme audit bodies have their own role to play in the audit chain on EU funds, which means that they act as certifying institutions in many Member States.

The ECA ought of course to take seriously the European Parliament’s desire for cooperation in the field of auditing of the EU budget. The ECA should not only gather them together but also actively propose options itself.

18.  How would you further develop the reporting of the ECA to give the European Parliament all the necessary information on the accuracy of the data provided by the Member States to the European Commission?

The ECA’s audit reports are a vital input for use by the European Parliament and the Council in their annual discharge procedure for the EU budget.

80% of EU budget appropriations are spent by official bodies of the Member States. It is therefore always legitimate for the Member States to report not only on the regularity but also on the effectiveness with which the funds have been used. The European Commission is responsible for checking that such information which is to be provided is pertinent and correct. The role of the ECA, as an independent external auditor, is to inform the European Parliament, the Council and the public by means of its reports that the data published by the Member States and the Commission are pertinent and correct.

I understand very clearly that Parliament wishes to obtain more – and above all more credible – information about the actions of the Member States’ official bodies where they have a bearing on budget appropriations for which shared responsibility exists. I am sure that the ECA can take that desire into account in planning its audits. I have understood from the current discharge procedure that the ECA is also looking for solutions.

In the medium- to long-term perspective, however, it should be reviewed carefully whether the information that Member States and the Commission are required to supply is precisely that which is essential for the discharge procedure or other monitoring procedures. Looking at the information supplied by the Commission’s various directorates-general, it seems as if, in places, bureaucrats are resorting to the tactic of swamping the client with information. The report on the current programme period is primarily intended to provide compliance information (error rate in fund x and in fund z). However, information on the effective use of the budget is no less essential. Now – last year – the Commission has begun to talk more about the effectiveness of the use of funds. I would point out that the rules for this programme period were already adopted a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, I can see that in this respect the ECA should step up its efforts and actively help to think about how the use of EU funds can be rendered more effective, while not forgetting that it is also essential to adhere to the rules. If the will is there, the forthcoming mid-term review of the multi-annual budgetary framework could already make it possible to optimise the reporting system and bring it more into line with the expectations of the European Parliament and of taxpayers.

Other questions

19.  Will you withdraw your candidacy if Parliament’s opinion on your appointment as Member of the Court is unfavourable?

The confidence of the European Parliament is an indispensable precondition to enable any member of the ECA to perform his duties successfully.

I am convinced that my experience of work and life to date fully meet the requirements applicable to members of the ECA.

If the European Parliament were nonetheless to take the view that there were grounds for doubting that I meet the requirements applicable to members of the ECA, and/or for doubting my independence, I would ask the Government of Estonia to withdraw my candidacy.


PROCEDURE – COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Title

Partial renewal of members of the Court of Auditors - EE nominee

References

12886/2016 – C8-0445/2016 – 2016/0817(NLE)

Date of consultation / request for consent

27.10.2016

 

 

 

Committee responsible

       Date announced in plenary

CONT

21.11.2016

 

 

 

Rapporteurs

       Date appointed

Bart Staes

14.11.2016

 

 

 

Date adopted

5.12.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

15

5

1

Members present for the final vote

Inés Ayala Sender, Martina Dlabajová, Luke Ming Flanagan, Ingeborg Gräßle, Bogusław Liberadzki, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Monica Macovei, Georgi Pirinski, Bart Staes, Indrek Tarand, Michael Theurer, Marco Valli, Derek Vaughan, Tomáš Zdechovský, Joachim Zeller

Substitutes present for the final vote

Caterina Chinnici, Andrey Novakov, Julia Pitera, Miroslav Poche, Patricija Šulin

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Tunne Kelam

Date tabled

8.12.2016

Legal notice