REPORT on the nomination of Harald Wögerbauer as a Member of the Court of Auditors
3.3.2011 - (C7‑0029/2011 – 2011/0801(NLE))
Committee on Budgetary Control
Rapporteur: Inés Ayala Sender
PROPOSAL FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DECISION
on the nomination of Harald Wögerbauer as a Member of the Court of Auditors
(C7‑0029/2011 – 2011/0801(NLE))
The European Parliament,
– having regard to Article 286(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C7‑0029/2011),
– having regard to the fact that at its meeting of 3 March 2011 the Committee on Budgetary Control heard the Council's nominee for membership of the Court of Auditors,
– having regard to Rule 108 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A7‑0048/2011),
A. whereas Harald Wögerbauer fulfils the conditions laid down in Article 286(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU,
1. Delivers a favourable opinion on the nomination of Harald Wögerbauer 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 Harald Wögerbauer
MR/PR Mag.Dr.Harald Wögerbauer
born: 27 July 1953 in Vienna
married, with two children
1959 – 1963: primary school in Vienna
1963 – 1971: secondary school: Gymnasium der Stiftung Theresianische Akademie, Vienna
1971: school-leaving examination
1971 – 1972: national service in the Austrian Army
1971 – 1974: studied law and economics
1974: graduated in law (Magisterium and Doktorat)
Studied political science in France
1975 – 1976: entry examination for the academic legal service of the Federal Government and entry examination for the higher audit service
since 1974: Member of the Austrian Court of Audit
1974 – 1979: Auditor at the Court of Audit, responsible for auditing Austria’s social insurance funds
since 1979: assigned to the Austrian Parliament and subsequently to the ÖVP parliamentary party – responsible, inter alia, for the Committee on the Court of Audit – Committee on Employment and Social Affairs – Health Committee – Foreign Affairs Committee – Science Committee – Economic Affairs Committee – Constitutional Affairs Committee – Industry Committee and Committee on the Ombudsman Board
since 1992: Political Director of the ÖVP Parliamentary Party
since 1995: Senior administrator at the Court of Audit
since 1999: Principal administrator in the Parliamentary Administration
Other bodies in which I have held posts during my career:
Ø for many years Chair of the Data Protection Council
Ø Regional and Cable Broadcasting Authority and Private Broadcasting Authority
Ø Fundamental Rights Reform Commission
Ø Federal Electoral Authority
German (mother tongue) – French (fluent) – English (fluent) – Russian (basic)
ANNEX 2: answers by Harald Wögerbauer to the questionnaire
Questionnaire for Candidates for Membership of the Court of Auditors
1. Please highlight the main aspects of your professional experience in public finance, management or management auditing.
After completing my law studies (my subsidiary subject being economics), I immediately started work for the Austrian Court of Audit. From 1974 until 1979 I audited the accounts of Austria’s social insurance funds. In 1979 I started to work in Parliament as a member of staff of the ÖVP party’s Parliamentary Party, but have remained a member of the Austrian Court of Audit to this day. My responsibilities at Parliament comprise all aspects of management, both technical (primarily legislative) and political, of the Committee on the Court of Audit, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Health Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Science Committee, the Economic Affairs Committee, the Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Industry Committee and the Committee on the Ombudsman Board.
Another important element in my work has been assisting committees of inquiry. As – besides the criminal law – issues relating to correct conduct are naturally the main subject of such a committee’s inquiries, this gave me excellent opportunities to use, and to further develop, the experience I had gained at the Austrian Court of Audit.
In addition to my main work at Parliament, I was also intensively occupied in other constitutional and administrative fields. For years, I was a member of the Fundamental Rights Reform Commission, the Regional and Cable Broadcasting Authority and the Private Broadcasting Authority, as well as being Chair of the Data Protection Council for many years.
As political director of the ÖVP parliamentary party I was responsible for coordination between the ÖVP Parliamentary Party, the Federal Government, the federal party leadership, the ÖVP groups in the Regional Assemblies and the regional party sections. Political planning and overall analysis and relations with the press were also among my responsibilities. After the ÖVP joined the government in 1986, I took part in all the negotiations on the respective coalition government programmes, played a role of some importance in such negotiations in the fields of employment and social affairs and health, and was among the decision-makers responsible for formulating the government’s programme of work.
The principal objectives of my work to date have been to promote correct public conduct, lawfulness, sound financial management, efficiency and economical use of resources – the constitutional objectives of the management of public funds as laid down by Austria's Federal Constitution – by means of reforms in all the fields in which I was able to wield any influence.
2. What are the three most important decisions to which you have been party in your professional life?
As a result of my many years of work as an auditor in the field of the self-administration of Austria’s social insurance funds, I gained an intensive internal knowledge of the problems facing these institutions both from the point of view of administration and in the substantive/legal field, particularly with regard to pensions and health insurance, but also with regard to accident insurance.
After moving on to work at the Austrian Parliament, where I was concerned not only with technical but also with political decision-making, and being responsible for technical and political decisions in the relevant committees of the two Houses of Parliament, I had the chance to use my knowledge to contribute to decisions on reforms with implications for the future concerning both substantive and organisational issues. For example, I have participated in decision-making on all the pension reforms since 1986, particularly the two most recent major reforms. These made it possible to secure the long-term financing of the Austrian pension system and to attain a significant objective which had been aspired to for decades, namely harmonisation of all the pension systems. In addition, after years of debate, it proved possible to merge employees’ pension funds into a single organisation by means of a comprehensive structural reform, thus bringing about numerous synergies and savings. The long sought-after goal of placing blue-collar and white-collar workers on an equal footing in large areas of employment law was attained with my assistance.
Another body which has bulked large in my work for decades was the Austrian Data Protection Council, an independent consultative body which advises the Federal Government on data protection. During my many years as Chair, I was able to largely put an end to the political wrangling within the Council and persuade all political factions and representatives of different interests and of local authorities to join forces, so that nearly all decisions were unanimous. In this way I succeeded in keeping data protection free of political debate in Austria and to obtain decisions by the Council which were acceptable to all, irrespective of social disparities. As a result of this development, data protection and the Data Protection Council itself came to enjoy ever greater acceptance not only in society but also at political level, so that it continuously gained in significance. In recent years, the recommendations of the Data Protection Council have therefore also more than previously found their way directly into the legislation passed by the two Houses of Parliament.
The media have been another focus of my professional career to date. As a member of the then newly founded Regional and Cable Broadcasting Authority and of the Private Broadcasting Authority, I was among those who, in the late 1990s, found themselves entering what, until these authorities were established, had been a legal terra incognita in Austria. With my participation in these authorities, it proved possible first to liberalise the radio market and to issue licences and assign frequencies to private radio broadcasters, after which it was the turn of private television. For me, this was a milestone in the liberalisation of the media market in Austria, and it was therefore extremely interesting and challenging for me to participate in this development in a highly prominent position.
3. The Treaty stipulates that the Members of the Court of Auditors shall be ‘completely independent’ in the performance of their duties. How would you apply this obligation to your prospective duties?
This requirement is nothing new to me, given my career, because I have already had to maintain my independence as a member of the Austrian Court of Audit. In addition, I have held – as I continue to do – senior posts in institutions where it was likewise very important that I should perform my duties independently.
I am fully aware that in order for the Court of Auditors to be able to act effectively and enjoy public esteem and credibility, it must be demonstrably independent and impartial and its Members must be credible in this respect.
Naturally, as a Member of the Court of Auditors, I would strictly comply with the relevant provisions of the Treaty and the Code of Conduct for Members of the Court of Auditors and would do my work correctly, without external influence.
4. Have you received a discharge for the management duties you carried out previously, if such a procedure applies?
There is no such procedure in Austria.
5. Do you have any business or financial holdings or any other commitments which might conflict with your prospective duties? Are you prepared to disclose all your financial interests and other commitments to the President of the Court and make them public? In case you are involved in any current legal proceedings, would you please give details?
I do not have any business or financial holdings or any other commitments which might conflict with my prospective duties. Naturally I should be perfectly happy to inform the President of the Court of all my financial interests and other commitments and to make them public. I am not involved in any current legal proceedings.
6. Are you prepared to step down from any elected office or give up any active function with responsibilities in a political party after your appointment as Court Member?
I no longer hold any such offices or perform any such functions.
7. How would you deal with a major irregularity or even fraud and/or corruption case involving actors in the Member State of your origin?
Combating cases of fraud and/or corruption and dealing with major irregularities in the conduct of the EU’s affairs is extremely important in order for European citizens to have confidence in the EU Institutions. If fraud or corruption or any other illegal actions were to come to light during an audit for which I was responsible, I would tell the President of the Court what I knew and inform OLAF. To me it would make absolutely no difference if the parties concerned came from Austria. If while taking action against these serious irregularities there was even the slightest appearance or suspicion that I might be unable to act impartially, I would pass the case on to somebody else and refrain from exercising my powers in this respect.
Performance of duties
8. What should be the main features of a sound financial management culture in any public service?
The prime feature of a sound financial management culture should be an awareness on the part of the bodies responsible that they must act lawfully and correctly and that they must ensure that the public funds available to them are used responsibly. Strong measures should be taken to develop this awareness in all parts of the public administration. However, sound financial management does not only mean ensuring that action is lawful: it must also be economical, financially efficient and effective. In order to enforce these principles not only ex post but also ex ante, efficient and intensive monitoring of conduct is required. For this reason, the duties of the Court of Auditors are also of particular significance with a view to maintaining sound financial management. At the same time, however, the functioning of monitoring systems must be ensured at all levels, whether in the form of internal or external audits. Yet it is also vital to draw lessons from audit findings, whether of systemic or of individual application. In order to enforce the principle of sound financial management, it is essential, if shortcomings have been detected, to devise measures in cooperation with the institutions responsible for the matter in order to remedy the shortcomings which have been revealed and at the same time investigate in what fields similar inadequacies might occur. A review of the follow-up with regard to remedying undesirable developments which have been identified is particularly important, in my view. Monitoring of sound financial management and monitoring of the follow-up must be coordinated by external and internal auditors, and the result of these activities should be reported to the political institution which has provided the funding being audited.
9. According to the Treaty, the Court shall assist Parliament in exercising its powers of control over the implementation of the budget. How would you describe your duties with regard to reporting to the European Parliament and its Committee on Budgetary Control, in particular?
I come from a country where the Court of Audit, as the highest body, acts on behalf of the Lower House of Parliament and of the regional assemblies to audit the use of public funds. It is also the case that the government receives a discharge by means of the annual closure of the federal accounts by the Court of Audit, if the closure document shows that the government has acted correctly and Parliament accepts this. Since joining the Austrian Court of Audit, therefore, I have been accustomed to cooperating closely with the parliamentary institutions. However, I also know the other side of the coin: cooperation between Parliament’s audit committees and the Court of Audit. In these capacities too, I have done everything possible in my daily work to cooperate as closely as possible with the parliamentary audit bodies.
Naturally it is perfectly clear to me that the legal situation in the EU is somewhat different where these two institutions are concerned. Nonetheless, Parliament and the Court of Auditors have the joint task of ensuring that the tax revenue derived from European citizens is spent correctly, carefully and in a financially sound manner. To ensure this and communicate the fact is an extremely important task of both institutions, with the aim of ensuring positive acceptance of the EU in the individual countries. The Court of Auditors assists the European Parliament and the Council in monitoring the implementation of the budget. Parliament also has the task, on a recommendation from the Council, of granting the Commission discharge for its implementation. In doing so, the European Parliament and the Council in their role as the discharge authority can in particular rely on the annual Declaration of Assurance by the Court of Auditors regarding the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions. In view of all these common interests of Parliament and the Court of Auditors and the close cooperation between them which is required by the European legal order, it is clear that, for all parties concerned, it is in their own interests to seek the closest possible cooperation and – if possible – to further improve it. As for me personally, I can say here, on the basis of my deepest convictions, that I shall do all that lies in my power to effectively and lastingly promote and support the joint work of the Court of Auditors and Parliament.
The Court of Auditors assists the budgetary authority in monitoring the implementation of the budget. To this end, the reports of the Court of Auditors (Annual Report, Declaration of Assurance and special reports) are forwarded to the European Parliament and considered there, in the first instance by the Committee on Budgetary Control. As regards the drafting of the reports, it should be ensured that they are correct and reliable, so that they can be shown to hold water despite the arguments of the departments being audited, and at the same time they must be sufficiently up to date to be of interest not only to the Committee on Budgetary Control and to give it the opportunity to draw its conclusions quickly on the reports submitted in order to prevent further losses or to introduce improvements without delay but also to make it possible to inform the public as quickly as possible. It also seems to me urgent to accelerate the audit of administration and financial management and the performance audit. The remarks formulated by the European Parliament after the submission of the reports of the Court of Auditors must be thoroughly examined by the Court of Auditors in order to ensure that Parliament's decisions are complied with, and can then also lead to the performance of fresh audits. The annual work programmes (report planning) should be geared to fruitful cooperation with Parliament, while maintaining the Court’s independence.
10. What do you think is the added value of performance audit and how should the findings be incorporated in the management?
The annual submission by the Court of Auditors of the Declaration of Assurance to the European Parliament and the Council is a very important task requiring substantial use of human resources, which inhibits its capacity to perform financial management audits and performance audits. In the light of this fact, the Court has adopted the strategic objective of reducing the resources it deploys for the Declaration of Assurance in order to assign more of them to the sector of financial management audits and performance audits. I believe that stepping up financial management audits and performance audits would permit a good many increases in efficiency in the use of EU funds. Greater attention should be devoted to the appropriate use of funds. Both comprehensive audits of a sector and individual audits of the use of funds on the spot could reveal specific shortcomings in the attainment of targets, leading to recommendations based on them, thereby helping to halt or avoid undesirable developments and to use EU funds more efficiently. Performance audits are therefore extremely important in order not only to enforce the principles of sound financial management but also to bring about annual improvements in the risk of error in the individual fields of policy and to pursue worthwhile further improvements to the use of funds. Performance audits can be performed both internally and externally. The added value of an external audit lies in the fact that the external authority is independent and the findings are intended not only for the authority but for Parliament, which can itself independently draw conclusions from the recommendations. It goes without saying that the observations made during a performance audit can be taken into account in different ways in the field of administration. One possibility is that, in an atmosphere of confidence and positivity, the department undergoing the audit may be convinced of the desirability of implementing the measures proposed to it by the auditors (direct implementation). Another possibility exists, namely that the institution to which the department undergoing the audit belongs may comply with the recommendations and conclusions of the Court of Auditors and act on them in its sector. In this field, however, the European Parliament is also of particular significance if – supposing that this seems to Parliament to be particularly important – it responds by taking decisions. But in the case of performance audits too it is essential to persistently and regularly check on the follow-up measures based on the findings and recommendations of the Court of Auditors.
11. How could the cooperation improve between the Court of Auditors, the National Audit Institutions and the European Parliament (Committee on Budgetary Control) concerning the audit of the EU budget?
The national audit institutions regularly examine financial transactions based on shared use of funds. Their findings are made available to the Community institutions. Audits by the Court of Auditors are performed in conjunction with the national audit institutions while each side retains its independence. Here the national audit institutions should be encouraged to assist with the audit assignments of the Court of Auditors in their country. The Court of Auditors and the Presidents of the national audit institutions meet annually in the Contact Committee to further develop their cooperation. Here the main problem which arises is that of harmonisation of audit standards in the EU. Moreover, national audit findings should be taken into account by the Court of Auditors. In addition, it would be desirable to inform audit authorities more fully about the audit themes which interest Parliament and particularly the Committee on Budgetary Control with regard to the regularity and quality of budgetary management. The Court of Auditors could particularly put the findings of the national audit institutions to optimal use in this field.
It is clear that scope will repeatedly arise for improving cooperation between the national audit institutions and the Court of Auditors and perhaps it would therefore be desirable to meet more than once a year in the Contact Committee which already exists in order to be able to discuss and reach conclusions on all the problems as soon as possible.
Would you withdraw your candidacy if Parliament's opinion on your appointment as Member of the Court were unfavourable?
Yes, because cooperation between the Court and Parliament is one of the most important tasks of a Member of the Court of Auditors and this would cause lasting damage to the fruitful basis for trust between the two Institutions and would not be conducive to working together.
RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE
Result of final vote
Members present for the final vote
Inés Ayala Sender, Andrea Češková, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Luigi de Magistris, Martin Ehrenhauser, Jens Geier, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Ville Itälä, Iliana Ivanova, Elisabeth Köstinger, Monica Luisa Macovei, Christel Schaldemose, Bart Staes, Georgios Stavrakakis
Substitute(s) present for the final vote
Zuzana Brzobohatá, Derk Jan Eppink, Christofer Fjellner, Monika Hohlmeier, Ivailo Kalfin, Marian-Jean Marinescu, Véronique Mathieu, Barbara Weiler
Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote