EXTERNALISATION OF THE MANAGEMENT OF COMMUNITY
Commission Communication on externalisation of the management of Community programmes, including presentation of a Framework Regulation for a new type of executive agency.
Draft Council Regulation laying down the statute for executive agencies to be entrusted with certain tasks in the management of Community programmes.
||Article 308 EC; consultation; unanimity
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 18 October 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 5 (18 July 2001)
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
||Legally and politically important
||Not cleared; further information requested
4.1 As part of its process of reform, the Commission
set out in December 1999 to develop a coherent and manageable
policy of 'externalisation', i.e. the carrying out of executive
tasks implementing Community policies by bodies other than the
Commission. The objective is to allow the Commission's permanent
staff to be assigned to its essential tasks, to regain control
of executive and support activities and, overall, to improve efficiency.
4.2 We considered the document, which consisted
of a Communication from the Commission together with a proposed
Council Regulation, on 18 July. We noted that the Communication
referred to three types of externalisation. "Devolution"
is the delegation of executive responsibilities to Community public
bodies such as executive agencies. "Decentralising"
is the delegation of executive responsibilities to national public
bodies "with a public service mission backed by the State"
and which would act as partners in implementing some Community
policies. "Outsourcing" would take place through the
letting of contracts to the private sector.
4.3 "Devolution" in this sense is the
subject of the proposed Council Regulation. We noted that Article
4 of the draft Regulation provided for an executive agency to
be a Community body with a legal personality separate from the
Commission, and that Article 6 provided that the Commission may
entrust an executive agency with any tasks required to implement
a Community programme, "except for those demanding discretionary
powers in translating political choices into action".
4.4 We were concerned that the creation of bodies
with legal personalities separate from the Commission would be
inconsistent with the principle, set out in the preamble, that
recourse to an agency did not relieve the Commission of its responsibilities
under the Treaty, particularly Article 274 EC.
4.5 We also expressed concern that the draft
Regulation was far from clear on the question of which tasks may
be delegated by the Commission to an agency. The exception of
tasks "demanding discretionary powers in translating political
choices into action" seemed to us to be vague and difficult
to apply in practice.
4.6 We asked the Minister for her comments on
these two points.
4.7 In her letter of 16 October 2001, the Economic
Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly) comments on the first point
"In my view, an agency would be entrusted with
a task by the Commission, and would carry out the task on behalf
of the Commission as its agent. Its separate legal
personality would not affect its status as agent; it would simply
mean it was constituted in a legal form that would enable it to
carry out its (agency) functions to best effect. When the Council's
Budget Committee considered this proposal, they suggested to the
Commission that the reference to the Commission's continuing responsibility
should be made more explicit."
4.8 On the question of defining which tasks could
be devolved to an agency under the Regulation, the Minister comments
"You also asked about the type of tasks which
may be delegated to an agency, and how the avoidance of tasks
'demanding discretionary powers in translating political choices
into action' would apply in practice. The Council's Budget Committee
also raised queries on this and asked for the proposal to contain
a clearer statement of the responsibilities and the nature of
the delegation of powers to agencies."
4.9 The Minister goes on to explain that the
Commission's initial response was to prepare a list of potential
tasks which they considered appropriate for agencies. The list
of tasks includes research, analysis, feasibility studies, cost-benefit
analysis, and the administration or implementation of actions
or programmes for which the political decisions have already been
made. The Minister summarises the position in terms that "the
Commission will direct the tasks of the agencies, but the agencies
will carry out the tasks on behalf of the Commission".
4.10 We thank the Minister for her helpful
reply. We accept that the Commission's responsibility is not necessarily
diluted by the devolution of functions to agencies having their
own legal personality, but this will depend on the degree to which
the Commission assumes responsibility for all that is done on
its behalf by an agency. We agree that the continuing responsibility
of the Commission should be made clearer in the Regulation, and
we shall look forward to further information from the Minister
as to how this has been achieved.
4.11 We note that others have also criticised
the vagueness of the scope of the delegating power in the draft
Regulation, and we shall look forward to an account by the Minister
of progress in defining this more clearly.
4.12 We shall hold the document under scrutiny
pending the Minister's reply.
14 "The Commission shall implement the budget...on
its own responsibility and within the limits of the appropriations,
having regard to the principles of sound financial management". Back