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Procedure : 2008/2053(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0104/2009

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Debates :

PV 24/03/2009 - 10
CRE 24/03/2009 - 10

Votes :

PV 25/03/2009 - 3.7
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Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 25 March 2009 - Strasbourg
The ABB-ABM method as a management tool for allocating budgetary resources

European Parliament resolution of 25 March 2009 on the ABB-ABM method as a management tool for allocating budgetary resources (2008/2053(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgets (A6-0104/2009),

A.   whereas Activity Based Management (ABM), Activity Based Budgeting (ABB), and the Strategic Planning and Programming (SPP) cycle were adopted by the EU institutions following the White Paper on reform in 2000 ( 'Kinnock reforms'), as part of a new drive towards a more performance-oriented management of the Commission and of EU programmes in general,

B.   whereas these concepts, in practice, were thus introduced during the Prodi Commission and its five-year strategic objectives for 2000-2005, comprising both an annual SPP cycle and a corresponding ABM-ABB cycle on the resource side,

C.   whereas the ultimate goal of all this was undoubtedly to make sure that scarce resources emanating from the tax-payer would be used in the best way possible to reach a set of agreed political priorities by better linking policies and the resource allocation process, which meant that the EU institutions would have to put mechanisms in place to achieve this in an unbureaucratic and efficient way,

D.   whereas at the same time the reform aimed at more efficient management and implementation, greater freedom to act, and a clearer definition of personal accountability and responsibility,

E.   whereas the budgetary authority naturally attached the highest importance to best use of scarce resources and now considers that the time has come to take stock of developments so far and to give new impetus to some further improvements that could endow the EU institutions with performance-oriented systems of high quality,

F.   whereas considerable positive changes have already taken place in terms of the overall approach and 'mind-set' concerning these issues but, at the same time, considerable scope for further improvements in the management of existing resources still exists,


1.  Considers that the implementation of ABM-ABB has been a success and has brought about an important cultural change in the Commission whilst at the same time helping to clarify personal responsibilities and accountability, and making management more effective, result oriented and transparent;

2.  2 Points out that there is still real danger of bureaucratisation of the Commission through the proliferation of burdensome rules and cumbersome procedures; therefore calls for further development of procedures and management at all levels in the Commission;

3.  Considers that the five-year strategic objectives of the Commission - ultimately the political base for its overall programming - and their annual translation into the Annual Policy Strategy (APS), should be much better linked to the multiannual financial framework (MFF), with a view to streamlining the timing and adoption of these into one coherent strategy with the corresponding resources and therefore believes that the MFF should itself be of five years' duration;

4.  Is of the opinion that currently, EU programmes are being scrutinised extensively with regard to controls and legality, but, unfortunately, that the same amount of attention is not given to the actual results achieved over their agreed period; considers that much greater attention should be paid to results achieved when evaluating the overall annual performance of the Commission, including in the discharge procedure;


5.  Emphasises that a clear identification and division of responsibilities are of crucial importance for achieving results in EU policies and good value for money in the budget; stresses that political responsibility lies with the Commissioners; also stresses that vis-à-vis the Parliament, they are also fully responsible for the implementation of sound and effective management in their respective departments and in the Commission as a whole; stresses that good relations between the institutions in a spirit of mutual confidence and openness are crucial elements for success;

6.  Considers it of utmost importance that, as the Executive responsible for implementation, the Commission has enough means and room for manoeuvre, but that it should report very clearly on the objectives achieved and the use of allocated financial and human resources; considers less important - from the point of view of a budgetary authority - exactly how the goals were achieved and how the Commission worked internally; therefore advocates a correspondingly greater degree of freedom in that regard; calls on the Commission to analyse the current ABB-SPP cycle in order to ensure that it is consistent in this regard and to present any relevant proposals for change;

7.  Considers that the Commission should establish clear quantitative and qualitative indicators to measure the achievement of policy and administrative objectives and should make them comparable over time;

8.  Recalls that a level of management and administrative responsibility, as defined through the relevant provisions in the Staff Regulations and through the principle of sound financial management in the Financial Regulation, also lies with Directors General of Commission DGs (delegated authorising officers), in terms of efficient, effective and, of course, legally correct implementation of programmes and policies;

9.  Considers that, in most areas, the issue of a clear chain of responsibility, which has neither too many levels nor is too bureaucratic, can still be the cause of a lack of "ownership" for specific issues in the Commission and would like some clear guidelines in this respect as concerns the implementation of programmes/budget and how the question of ABM and ABB influences this topic;

10.  In this respect, welcomes further work to clarify the responsibility of individual actors and enhance the sense of responsibility within the organisation; also considers, in this respect, that the effective use and integration of ABM-ABB as a "tool for success", rather than an administrative burden, can be of crucial importance; calls on the Commission to continue this process and present any relevant proposals to take it forward;


11.  Considers that the practical presentation and synthesis of results and allocated resources used in Annual Activity Reports (AARs) is still lagging behind when compared to the time spent on administrative tasks presenting the goals and requested resources in the preparatory stages, i.e. APS, Annual Management Plans and Activity Statements; in this respect, considers that further development is necessary in which the Commission's collective services take "ownership" of this process in a positive way;

12.  Underlines the real need to obtain improved, user-friendly reports on results for the Parliament to execute its budgetary, legislative and auditing tasks; considers that a more concise version of the relevant AARs and their Synthesis Report including results and costs should be made available to Parliament and Council in the annual budgetary procedure;

13.  Considers that it is a serious shortcoming that, until now, the APS, and the parallel budgetary information feeding into the preliminary draft budget (PDB), have introduced new priorities without identifying any "negative priorities" and that, in consequence, the whole cycle tends to add one priority after another without taking any political decision as to issues that, given the limited resources available from the tax-payer, need to be scaled down in order to give way to the most crucial priorities; stresses that this is in clear contradiction of the basic principles of the reform; notes with concern that the strict limits of the MFF leave very little room for manoeuvre;

14.  Takes note of the proposals to improve the coherence between Annual Management Plans and the Activity Statements published with the PDB so that the administrative burden of the SPP process is reduced while maintaining the link between objectives and measured "outputs"; believes that the Annual Management Plan needs to be reformed and asks the Commission to act swiftly;

15.  Is thus still not convinced that the SPP-ABM process sufficiently takes into account 'lessons learned' and previous results and how these are fed back into the system for the coming years; points out that this is also linked to how the vast array of studies and evaluations carried out by the Commission are taken into account and influence, as they rightly should, the resource allocation process; proposes therefore to more clearly demand a link to programme reviews and the budgetary process in the terms of reference of the evaluations; proposes further to include in the AAR a chapter on the lessons learned;

16.  Believes the SPP-ABM cycle should also include an assessment of risks related to the achievement of set policy objectives;

17.  As a practical proposal to improve the performance of EU programmes, considers it necessary that the current management and budgetary cycles be better used when preparing the new budget; in technical terms this means that for the current procedure (Budget 2010), the AARs and their Synthesis report for 2008, containing the results on whether the objectives were fulfilled or not, must be available in time and more extensively used throughout the Commission's proposals made during 2009; stresses its wish that there should be "systematic consequences" as a result of how previous priorities and goals are progressing; criticises the fact that, from one year to another, there is not enough focus on what has been done with regard to these and how that should reflect on the following years;

18.  Welcomes a certain improvement in Activity Statements which are provided with the PDB to justify the requested resources; deplores the fact, however, that information is still sometimes not of the quality required to motivate, say, a budget increase and, also, regrets that so far the budgetary authority has not really seen fit to reward "good performers" and, conversely, to maintain or even reduce the budgets of those departments that supply inadequate results;

Within the Commission

19.  Considers that the long-term objectives and plans, i.e. the MFF and the five-year strategic objectives as well as APS also need to be better explained and linked to the work of individual DGs and services as an important part of motivating these staff and making them feel part of, and contributors to, the overriding objectives of the organisation as a whole; asks the Commission, therefore, to link more clearly the positive and negative priorities in the Annual Management Plans and AARs to the overall multiannual and strategic objectives;

20.  Also believes that, by and large, these strategic objectives are unfortunately not subject to any real attempt of evaluation in terms of progress; believes that, for example, a mid-term review on how the strategic goals have been met could be implemented and that each DG could feed into that process by indicating what actions have been undertaken, what resources have been used, and how this has contributed to fulfilling the overall goals; stresses that, in order to achieve this practicably, the objectives and indicators used to measure performance would also need to be defined in that strategic context as far as possible;

21.  Emphasises that such involvement, ultimately, is also key to responsible management of resources at the operational levels and, for example, also a key part in motivating units to look for efficient work practices, find savings when possible, co-operate with other departments etc;

22.  Considers that ABB-ABM must be developed in such a way that greater transparency and explanations concerning the division of responsibilities between central and decentralised functions in the Commission can be available and, importantly, provide clear guidance as to the numbers and costs for staff/resources devoted to administrative support and coordination functions including support for the ABB-ABM cycle itself and, in this way, contributing to finding the right balance between a centralised and decentralised approach;

Concluding remarks

23.  Requests the Commission to better integrate and streamline the SPP-ABM cycle so that the actual results of the implementation of policies and activities can be taken into due consideration when allocating human and financial resources; emphasises that this should also result in the identification of possible "negative priorities";

24.  Believes greater consideration should be given to making the Annual Policy Strategy an exercise by which the results of previous years are systematically taken into account, thereby also contributing to reducing the administrative burden on the Commission;

25.  Stresses that simplifications and improvements in presentation should also be made to the content of the SPP-ABM key documents, such as Commission's Annual Activity and Synthesis Reports, to make them better match the Budgetary and Discharge Authority's needs;

26.  Insists that this move should not result in an increased administrative workload; asks the Commission therefore to carry out a detailed analysis of the administrative costs of the SPP-ABM cycle, in order to identify possible administrative simplifications, and to monitor closely the appropriateness of the allocation of human resources, especially to programming and budgeting activities;

27.  Asks the Commission to report back to the Parliament on the results of such analyses in the next screening report, as well as on the actions implemented and progress made in respect of the requests made in this resolution before Parliament's first reading on Budget 2010;

28.  Believes that more emphasis should be placed on establishing quality criteria to which performance information should comply;

29.  Further asks the Commission to keep the Parliament informed of the actions taken to assess and improve organisational efficiency and effectiveness, particularly regarding the division of administrative support and coordination functions between central and operational levels within the Commission;

30.  Stresses that there should be a clearer connection between AARs, APS and the Commission's PDB and that the alignment between programming and budgeting activities should be promoted with a multiannual perspective, through a better link between the MFF, the Commission's Strategic Plan and the APS;

31.  Considers that these improvements would make ABB-ABM an effective instrument in view of a budget for results and foster a culture of responsibility and accountability within the Commission;

32.  Believes that Parliament should review how it uses the performance information from the SPP-ABM documents to strengthen its dialogue with the Commission;

o   o

33.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

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