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Procedure : 2015/2161(DEC)
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Document selected : A8-0121/2016

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PV 27/04/2016 - 17
CRE 27/04/2016 - 17

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PV 28/04/2016 - 4.21
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Thursday, 28 April 2016 - Brussels Final edition
Discharge 2014: EU general budget - European Ombudsman

1. European Parliament decision of 28 April 2016 on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2014, Section VIII – European Ombudsman (2015/2161(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2014(1),

–  having regard to the consolidated annual accounts of the European Union for the financial year 2014 (COM(2015)0377 – C8‑0206/2015)(2),

–  having regard to the Court of Auditors’ annual report on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial year 2014, together with the institutions’ replies(3),

–  having regard to the statement of assurance(4) 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 2014, pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Article 314(10) and Articles 317, 318 and 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(5), and in particular Articles 55, 99, 164, 165 and 166 thereof,

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0121/2016),

1.  Grants the European Ombudsman discharge in respect of the implementation of the budget of the European Ombudsman for the financial year 2014;

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 European Ombudsman, the European Council, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors, the European Data Protection Supervisor and the External Action Service, and to arrange for their publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (L series).

(1) OJ L 51, 20.2.2014.
(2) OJ C 377, 13.11.2015, p. 1.
(3) OJ C 373, 5.11.2015, p. 1.
(4) OJ C 377, 13.11.2015, p. 146.
(5) OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

2. European Parliament resolution of 28 April 2016 with observations forming an integral part of the decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2014, Section VIII – European Ombudsman (2015/2161(DEC))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its decision on discharge in respect of the implementation of the general budget of the European Union for the financial year 2014, Section VIII – European Ombudsman,

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Budgetary Control (A8-0121/2016),

1.  Notes with satisfaction that in its 2014 annual report, the Court of Auditors observed that no significant weaknesses had been identified with respect to the audited topics related to the human resources and the procurement for the European Ombudsman (the "Ombudsman");

2.  Emphasises the fact that on the basis of its audit work, the Court of Auditors concluded that the payments as a whole for the year ended on 31 December 2014 for administrative and other expenditure of the institutions and bodies were free from material error;

3.  Stresses that the Ombudsman's budget is purely administrative and amounted in 2014 to EUR 9 857 002 (EUR 9 731 371 in 2013), with EUR 7 977 702 being allocated to Title I (expenditure relating to persons working for the institution), EUR 1 346 800 attributed to Title 2 (buildings, equipment and miscellaneous operating expenditure) and EUR 532 500 to Title 3 (expenditure resulting from special functions carried out by the institution);

4.  Takes note that of the total appropriations, 97,87 % were committed (98,20 % in 2013) and 93,96 % paid (91,82 % in 2013), with a utilisation rate of 97,87 % (98,20 % in 2013), which represents a decrease in the utilisation rate;

5.  Notes a particular increase of commitments in 2014 related to the Members of the institution; asks the Ombudsman to give a comprehensive description of those amounts in its follow-up report to the 2014 discharge;

6.  Welcomes the fact that, in line with its new Strategy Towards 2019, the Ombudsman pursued own-initiative inquiries, taking up a more systemic approach of complex issues falling within its mandate; considers this to be an effective tool and asks the Ombudsman regularly to inform the discharge authority about the impact of those inquiries and to identify clearly the coordinator's tasks; points out, however, that the Ombudsman's priority should be to address complaints from citizens within a reasonable time frame and that own-initiative inquiries should under no circumstances infringe on that objective;

7.  Welcomes the creation of a new post designated as "own-initiative inquiry coordinator"; considers it to be a step towards a more efficient work and invites the Ombudsman to report to the discharge authority on the performance, impact and efficiency of this post;

8.  Calls on the Ombudsman's office to comply with the principle of transparency, in particular as regards identifying and assigning clear lines of responsibility, and to ensure that the Ombudsman website is updated regularly and accurately reflects the organisation chart of the institution;

9.  Notes that the Strategy Towards 2019 introduced new key performance indicators (KPI) with very specific targets and that, according to the KPI scoreboard, some of those targets have not been reached; in this regard, notes that the Ombudsman scored lower in terms of the proportion of inquiries closed within 12 and 18 months and furthermore in the proportion of cases in which the admissibility decision is taken within one month; invites the Ombudsman to develop a strategy for the mitigation of any potential weaknesses in this regard and to keep the discharge authority informed on any developments thereto;

10.  Welcomes the fact that the ratio of closed to ongoing inquiries reached the highest ever level at the end of the previous exercise (2013), with a score of 1,4 closed enquiries for every ongoing one, against a target of 1,1; stresses that the proportion of inquiries closed within 12 and 18 months decreased in 2014; acknowledges that, according to the Ombudsman, the new Strategy Towards 2019, including the pursuit of own-initiative inquiries, had an impact on the number of the cases closed; asks the Ombudsman to explain that impact clearly to the discharge authority in the next follow-up report to the discharge;

11.  Stresses that the number of complaints falling outside the Ombudsman's remit remains very high, especially from citizens of some Member States such as Spain and Poland, which undoubtedly creates a great deal of frustration among citizens regarding Union institutions in general and the Ombudsman in particular; calls, therefore, on the Ombudsman to improve its information and communication policy and to forge stronger links for smooth and regular cooperation with the European Network of Ombudsmen and national and regional ombudsmen in order to remedy this problem;

12.  Notes that, according to the KPI scoreboard, the level of satisfaction among the Ombudsman´s staff was lower than targeted; acknowledges that this was mainly related to crucial changes in the Ombudsman structure and has since been remedied by a certain number of measures; calls on the Ombudsman to continue to ensure a high level of staff satisfaction;

13.  Welcomes the well-structured, clear and reader-friendly annual activity report (AAR) presented by the Ombudsman; welcomes its intensified external communication strategy and stronger presence on the social media;

14.  Expects the Ombudsman to continue to strive for consistency in the AAR and to make it fully comprehensive, as it is an important tool for the assessment of its work;

15.  Notes the large number of missions by the Ombudsman staff between Brussels and Strasbourg (212 in total, costing EUR 126 000 plus an estimated EUR 60 000 in lost working time while travelling); calls on the Ombudsman to reduce to the fullest extent possible the number of missions of its staff and to make maximum use of videoconferencing and other related technical means, as other institutions are already doing, in order to avoid unnecessary travel and significantly reduce costs; reminds the Ombudsman, furthermore, of the environmental impact of CO2 emissions generated by this commuting, and that it is therefore important that it assumes its responsibilities in this regard and reports to Parliament on the progress it has made;

16.  Is concerned at the Ombudsman's recruitment policy, which has involved using emergency procedures directly to employ former trainees on short-term contracts; deplores the fact that three temporary staff were hired in 2014 without passing any selection procedure; calls on the Ombudsman to bring, as a matter of urgency, its staff selection criteria into line with the European civil service's standards of quality, transparency, objectivity and equal opportunities;

17.  Welcomes the progress made by the Ombudsman in 2015 on gender balance; stresses, however, that the available data for 2014 still show great disparities, particularly in AST posts (21/9) and management positions (9/2), and emphasises the importance of setting medium-term objectives to achieve the necessary balance, and of continuing to work actively on this direction;

18.  Asks the Ombudsman, with a view to ensuring greater transparency, to include a table of all human resources broken down by nationality, gender and grade in its AAR; calls on the Ombudsman to answer questions raised by Parliament and the other institutions on pensions;

19.  Renews its call, made last year, for the Ombudsman to state the rate of requested but unused interpretation services for 2014 in its AAR for 2015;

20.  Welcomes the savings on the budget lines for translation and publications;

21.  Reiterates its calls on the Ombudsman to include in its AAR, in compliance with the existing rules on confidentiality and data protection, the results and consequences of closed OLAF cases, where the Ombudsman or any of the individuals working for it were the subject of an investigation;

22.  Takes note of the Ombudsman´s calculations with regard to potential savings of EUR 195 000 should it only have one seat; takes into account that the seat of the Ombudsman is tied to the seat of Parliament and therefore deems it necessary that the Ombudsman be included in any debate on centralisation of the Parliament´s seat; stresses that such centralisation should be actively promoted.

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