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Procedure : 2016/2174(DEC)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0098/2017

Texts tabled :

A8-0098/2017

Debates :

PV 26/04/2017 - 19
CRE 26/04/2017 - 19

Votes :

PV 27/04/2017 - 5.37

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0168

Texts adopted
PDF 200k
Thursday, 27 April 2017 - Brussels Provisional edition
Discharge 2015: European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
P8_TA-PROV(2017)0168A8-0098/2017
Decision
 Decision
 Resolution

1.European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015 (2016/2174(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015, together with the Authority’s reply(1) ,

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Authority in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05873/2017 – C8‑0060/2017),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3) , and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety(4) , and in particular Article 44 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(5) , and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0098/2017),

1.  Grants the Executive Director of the European Food Safety Authority discharge in respect of the implementation of the Authority’s budget for the financial year 2015;

2.  Sets out its observations in the resolution below;

3.  Instructs its President to forward this decision, and the resolution forming an integral part of it, to the Executive Director of the European Food Safety Authority, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

(1) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 97.
(2) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 97.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.


2.European Parliament decision of 27 April 2017 on the closure of the accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015 (2016/2174(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the final annual accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ report on the annual accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015, together with the Authority’s reply(1) ,

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(2) as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions provided by the Court of Auditors for the financial year 2015, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Council’s recommendation of 21 February 2017 on discharge to be given to the Authority in respect of the implementation of the budget for the financial year 2015 (05873/2017 – C8‑0060/2017),

–  having regard to Article 319 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(3) , and in particular Article 208 thereof,

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety(4) , and in particular Article 44 thereof,

–  having regard to Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1271/2013 of 30 September 2013 on the framework financial regulation for the bodies referred to in Article 208 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council(5) , and in particular Article 108 thereof,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0098/2017),

1.  Approves the closure of the accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015;

2.  Instructs its President to forward this decision to the Executive Director of the European Food Safety Authority, the Council, the Commission and the Court of Auditors, and to arrange for its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

(1) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 97.
(2) OJ C 449, 1.12.2016, p. 97.
(3) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1.
(5) OJ L 328, 7.12.2013, p. 42.


3.European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015 (2016/2174(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015,

–  having regard to Rule 94 of and Annex IV to its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control and the opinion of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (A8-0098/2017),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ Special Report No 12/2016: 'Agencies’ use of grants: not always appropriate or demonstrably effective',

A.  whereas, according to its financial statements, the final budget of the European Food Safety Authority (“the Authority”) for the financial year 2015 was EUR 79 659 347; whereas the entire budget of the Authority derives from the Union budget,

B.  whereas the Court of Auditors (“the Court”), in its report on the annual accounts of the European Food Safety Authority for the financial year 2015 (“the Court’s report”), has stated that it has obtained reasonable assurances that the Authority’s annual accounts are reliable and that the underlying transactions are legal and regular,

Budget and financial management

1.  Notes that the budget monitoring efforts during the financial year 2015 resulted in a budget implementation rate of 99,81 %, representing an increase of 0,12 % compared to 2014; notes, furthermore, that the payment appropriations execution rate was at 90,10 %, representing an increase of 0,80 % compared to 2014;

2.  Recalls that 2015 was the second year of operation of the Authority under the Union Multiannual Financial Framework; notes that the amount of unused appropriations was EUR 1 089 million; stresses that this under-execution corresponds to the unused assigned revenue (the Authority’s outturn of 2014), which was reused in 2016;

Procurement and recruitment procedure

3.  Takes note of the 2 % reduction in the Authority’s establishment plan, corresponding to seven posts, which resulted in the Authority increasing its efforts in establishing more efficient and effective procedures; notes that at the end of 2015, 446 of the available 477 posts were occupied, including officials, temporary agents, contract agents and seconded national experts; observes that the yearly average occupancy rate was 94,7 % (423 posts occupied out of the available 447);

4.  Notes that the Authority’s staff are legally bound to comply with the Staff Regulations of Officials of the European Union (‘Staff Regulations’), which establish a general framework of rights and obligations affecting officials and agents; notes moreover that the Staff Regulations are supplemented by the Authority’s Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, which determines the type of service the public can expect from the Authority’s staff, and by a Practical Guide to Staff Ethics and Conduct, which sets ethical principles to achieve the highest standards of integrity; observes that the Authority recognises the importance of communication with the media and has a specific service within the Communications Department to handle media requests and to explain its work to journalists; takes note that, from 2014 to 2015, the Authority increased the percentage of human resources dedicated to scientific activities by 1 %, bringing the total to 75 %;

5.  Acknowledges the fact that the Authority developed an advanced conflict of interest screening tool related to procurement, which was set out in a decision by its Executive Director; notes that this tool was designed to prevent conflicts of interest in procurement procedures of a scientific nature;

6.  Is concerned that any staff reduction within the Authority could seriously damage its capacities and reputation; believes, therefore, that it should be ensured that no reduction of staff takes place;

Prevention and management of conflicts of interest and transparency

7.  Observes that the Authority launched a review of its ‘Policy on Independence and Scientific Decision-Making Processes’, which will include a public consultation to ensure that the views of interested parties are taken into account; invites the Authority to report to the discharge authority on the outcome of this review exercise once it is finalised;

8.  Notes that the Authority completed the centralisation of the validation process of all the annual declarations of interest submitted by its experts and staff to its legal and regulatory affairs function;

9.  Stresses that experts with financial interests linked to companies whose substances are evaluated by the Authority should not be allowed to sit in the Authority's scientific panels or working groups, and that no such expert should be appointed by the Authority before two years after his/her interests have ceased; is convinced that the Authority should be endowed with a sufficient budget to hire independent in-house experts with no conflicts of interest;

10.  Calls on the Authority to incorporate into its new independence policy a two-year cooling-off period for all material interests related to the companies whose products are assessed by the Authority and to any organisations funded by them;

11.  Takes note that the Authority has already committed to introduce two-year cooling-off periods in relation to the following interests: membership of a managing entity or scientific advisory body, employment and consultancy; regrets that the Authority has not included research funding in the list of interests to be covered by the two-year cooling-off period, as the discharge authority already identified in the latest discharge decisions; calls on the Authority to swiftly implement the measure in line with the discharge authority's repeated requests;

12.  Observes that the Authority put in place a standing operating procedure on mandatory training courses which are designed to raise awareness among staff about specific subject areas, to reduce organisational risks, and to ensure compliance with Union regulations and horizontal policies and control standards;

13.  Acknowledges the fact that, since its establishment, the Authority publishes the minutes of its management board on its website; notes furthermore that the meetings are open to the public upon registration, and that the audio recordings of the public sessions are available on the Authority’s website;

14.  Acknowledges the fact that, since the adoption of its 2011 policy on independence, the Authority assesses and validates 100 % of the declarations of interest submitted by its experts, which on average corresponds to a grand total ranging from 6 000 to 7 000 declarations of interest per year that are assessed and validated by the Authority’s staff, in accordance with its policy on independence and its rules on declarations of interest; takes note that the Authority additionally, twice per year, performs additional compliance and veracity checks by staff not involved in the ordinary checks mentioned above; calls on the Authority to publish the results of its checks as an annex to its yearly report; notes that a review of the 2011 policy is ongoing with a public consultation planned for spring 2017 and a target date of adoption of the new independent policy by summer 2017; notes with concern that the Authority’s policy on prevention and management of conflicts of interest is not applied to its interim staff;

15.  Insists that the Authority implement its independence policy consistently, and in particular for panel chairs and vice-chairs;

16.  Notes that, after the matter was brought to the attention of the Authority by the discharge authority, all declarations of interest of management board members are now published on the Authority’s website; emphasises the importance of publishing such documents to ensure necessary oversight and scrutiny of the Authority’s management;

17.  Notes that, pending the adoption of implementing rules on whistleblowing, the Authority implemented in January 2016 a new standard operating procedure on the handling of requests by whistleblowers facing retaliation; acknowledges the fact that the Authority is awaiting further guidance from the Commission before formulating its internal whistleblowing rules; asks the Commission to provide the additional guidance as soon as possible and calls on the Authority to report to the discharge authority on the establishment and implementation of its whistleblowing rules;

18.  Notes with satisfaction that the Authority adopted its anti-fraud strategy and a related action plan in March 2015, and that an implementation report submitted to the management board in December 2016 indicated that all actions had been implemented; notes that the actions scheduled therein related to the spheres of prevention, detection, investigation and monitoring;

19.  Notes that the Authority launched in 2015 the ‘Transparency and Engagement in Risk Assessment’ project to provide clarity regarding, and further develop approaches towards transparency and engagement in, its scientific processes by 2020 in line with its communication strategy, fostering regular engagement with its stakeholders and the public throughout the development of scientific assessments and outputs, mainly through public consultation mechanisms;

20.  Notes that the Authority has launched a number of structured mechanisms to manage its interaction with interested parties in order to ensure that engagement is carried out in a transparent way and to avoid the risk of undue influence; notes that the mechanisms includes public consultations on selected scientific opinions and guidance documents, information sessions for applicants, open scientific plenary meetings, stakeholder meetings, meetings of the Executive Director;

21.  Notes also that all of the Authority’s staff undergo compulsory training annually and are required to submit an annual Declaration of Interests (DoI) detailing financial or intellectual interests that they or their family may have, including concerning any private relations with lobbyists; notes that the Authority’s external experts are also required to submit annual DoIs before engaging in scientific work for the Authority, all of which are publicly available on its website; observes that those DoIs are assessed in line with the Authority’s policy on independence and where conflicts are identified, the expert is not permitted to engage in scientific work for the Authority; asks the Authority to keep the discharge authority informed on the implementation and results of these measures;

22.  Notes that the Authority does not apply cooling off periods for experts after the end of cooperation with the Authority, but that it has put in place proportionate cooling off periods in the context of the selection procedure of these experts that limit their involvement to certain roles for a period of time of between two and five years when they have been employed or have provided advisory services on matters overlapping with their involvement with the Authority;

23.  Notes that 64 % of public access to documents requests resulted in granting of partial access to the requested documents and that the most invoked protective ground for partial access was the exception on personal data (applied to 51 % of partial access cases), followed by the exception on commercial interests (applied to 33 % of partial access cases) and the exception for ongoing decision-making (applied to 23,5 % of partial access cases);

24.  Notes that in July 2016, the Authority’s management board endorsed a new approach to stakeholder engagement, which enables the Authority to interact with a large range of stakeholders through a variety of channels in order to broaden outreach to representative organisations, including consumer bodies and other civil society actors in the food chain;

25.  Notes that, from 2017, the Authority will broadcast live, via web streaming, open scientific meetings to the public in the interests of transparency;

26.  Calls on the Authority to publish its list of Food Safety Organisations, as well as the outcome of its evaluations of experts’ interests;

27.  Believes that the Authority should continue paying special attention to public opinion, and commit itself, as much as possible, to openness and transparency; welcomes, in this respect, the fact that in 2015, the Authority successfully tested its new methodological approach to the use of scientific evidence; also welcomes, in this context, the improvements in sharing data by opening up the data warehouse of the Authority to a growing number of stakeholders; welcomes the Impact Assessment(1) , an external scientific report published in June 2016, of measures by the Authority specifically aimed at increasing transparency and engagement in its risk assessment process; encourages the Authority to further progress on this path, particularly in the context of its 2017 independence review;

28.  Points out that several Union rules, including, among others, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, give individuals the right to access public documents; reminds the Authority that scientific rigour is ensured best by transparency and accountability of results;

Internal controls

29.  Takes note that in 2015, the Authority’s Internal Audit Capability (IAC) carried out assurance engagements and other special tasks as provided for in the Annual Audit Plan approved by the Authority’s Audit Committee; takes note that the audit engagements covered the ‘Internal Control Standards implementation, the validation of user access rights granted in ABAC’, two reports on the follow up of the Commission’s Internal Audit Service (IAS) and the Court’s outstanding recommendations, as well as the preliminary findings related to the audit on ‘Corporate Governance, the role of the experts in the EFSA scientific decision making process’;

30.  Observes that according to the IAC, the Authority’s current internal control system provides reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of the business objectives set up for the processes audited, except for the formalisation and enhancement of ex-ante, interim and ex-post evaluations, and the misalignment between delegation acts and access rights to the ABAC accounting system; calls on the Authority to report to the discharge authority on the actions taken in order to tackle the deficiencies of its internal control system;

31.  Takes note from the Court’s report that the Authority has not yet put in place a clear and comprehensive financial ex-post control strategy covering all areas of operations and specifying the frequency and scope of such controls; invites the Authority to consider whether this additional control step would be fit for purpose in its risk-based assessment environment;

Internal audit

32.  Notes that the IAS released a report on ‘Scientific Support to Risk Assessment and Evaluation of Regulated Products with Focus on Data Collection and Analysis’; notes that the IAS concluded that, although the Authority’s overall process for data collection and analysis adequately supports its scientific activities of risk assessment and evaluation of regulated products, weaknesses - in particular in its data governance - still exist; acknowledges from the Authority that it adopted an action plan addressing the IAS’ observations, as well as that at the year-end, all actions envisaged under the action plan were in progress within the prescribed deadlines;

33.  Notes from the Authority’s annual report that at the beginning of 2015, eight ‘Very Important’ recommendations were issued by the IAS; takes note that further to the combined impact of the audit on ‘Scientific Support to Risk Assessment and Evaluation of Regulated Products with focus on Data Collection and Analysis’ and the follow-up audit of all outstanding recommendations, only three ‘Very Important’ recommendations remained open; acknowledges that the Authority implemented part of the actions envisaged under the action plan already in the course of 2015 and was to implement the definition and adoption of a comprehensive data management framework in 2016;

Performance

34.  Acknowledges the fact that the Authority established or renewed joint scientific activities and cooperation initiatives with a number of partner organisations at Union level including the European Chemicals Authority, the European Medicine Authority, Spain’s Agencia Española de Consumo - Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición and the UK’s Food Standards Agency; notes in addition that the Authority conducted additional cooperation exchanges with a number of international partner agencies; notes with satisfaction that this cooperation aims at sharing methods and approaches to improve food safety, including methods for better risk assessment, rapid identification of emerging risks and data sharing on subjects of common interest;

Other comments

35.  Notes that the five positions of the Agency's senior management team are distributed with an optimal gender balance of 40 % / 60 %; notes with concern, however, a significant gender imbalance of 20 % / 80 % in the Authority’s management board;

36.  Takes note that 24 members of staff participated in 2015 in away days for which the cost was EUR 5 816 (EUR 242,33 per person); notes that 31 members of staff participated in "Closed conferences" for which the cost was relatively high at EUR 23 096,16 (EUR 745,03 per person); calls on the Agency to provide more specific clarification to the discharge authority on the contents and costs of its closed conferences;

37.  Welcomes the contribution of the Authority to the safety of the Union food and feed chain, by providing Union risk managers with comprehensive, independent and up-to-date scientific advice on questions linked to the food chain, communicating clearly to the public on its outputs and the information on which they are based, and cooperating with interested parties and institutional partners to promote coherence and trust in the Union food safety system;

38.  Notes that the Authority produced more than 600 scientific outputs covering the entire food chain and contributing to the improvement of public health;

39.  Also notes that the Authority assessed public health risks in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control by leveraging combined data sets; welcomes the fact that the Authority also works in collaboration, on occasion, with the European Medicines Agency, (e.g. presenting a first joint report on the integrated analysis of the consumption of antimicrobial agents and of the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria from humans and food-producing animals) and with the European Chemicals Agency, (e.g. on the joint development of scientific guidance to enable identification of endocrine disruptors);

40.  Welcomes the fact that in 2015 the Authority launched a multi-annual project to assess bee stressors and attributes of healthy honey bee colonies, also with a view to establishing a framework for robust and harmonised measurement of the health status of honey bee colonies in field surveys;

41.  Stresses that a core element of scientific credibility is transparency as regards the scientific studies which have been considered, as well as reproducibility of the results;

42.  Stresses that there were important milestones in the Authority’s communications with risk managers and the public in 2015: the launch of its new website based on extensive user research, and the move of the EFSA Journal to an external professional publishing platform. Progress was also made by the Applications Helpdesk, the Authority’s front office and support desk for the safety assessment of regulated products. With those and many other projects and initiatives, the Authority ensured that it remained an effective and trusted provider of scientific advice for the interests of consumers in the Union;

43.  Acknowledges the fact that in 2015 the Authority established a liaison office in Brussels to improve communication and dialogue with Union institutions, the media and stakeholders;

44.  Believes that the Authority should continue encouraging stakeholders and citizens to participate regularly and to provide input at defined interaction points throughout the development of scientific outputs, including for regulated products, as stated in the EFSA Strategy 2020;

45.  Underlines that the Authority should start reviewing the five existing impact indicators and also develop new ones; believes that such impact indicators are essential tools in order to measure the effectiveness of EFSA;

46.  Believes that the Authority should endeavour to limit the travelling time for experts and by promoting the use of IT tools such as interactive video-conferences or webinars;

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47.  Refers, for other observations of a cross-cutting nature accompanying its decision on discharge, to its resolution of 27 April 2017(2) [on the performance, financial management and control of the agencies].).

(1) "Impact Assessment of Specific Measures Aimed at Increasing Transparency and Engagement in EFSA Risk Assessment Process", EFSA Supporting publication 2016:EN-1047.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA-PROV(2017)0155.

Last updated: 17 July 2017Legal notice