EXTERNALISATION OF THE MANAGEMENT OF COMMUNITY
Commission Communication on the management of Community programmes by networks of national agencies.
|Document originated:||13 November 2001
|Forwarded to the Council:
||15 November 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||3 January 2002|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 11 January 2002|
|Previous Committee Report:
||None; but see (22051) 5314/01: HC 152-i (2001-02), paragraph 5 (18 July 2001), HC 152-vii (2001-02), paragraph 4 (21 November 2001), and paragraph 5 above
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
11.1 As part of its process of reform, the Commission
set out in December 1999 to develop a coherent and manageable
'externalisation' policy. 'Externalisation' in this context means
the carrying out of executive tasks implementing Community policies
by bodies other than the Commission, whether these be Community
public bodies, national authorities or the private sector. The
'externalisation' policy is being developed in order, amongst
other things, to correct the aberrations caused by poor control
of the various technical assistance offices.
11.2 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.
11.3 We considered a Communication and draft Council
Regulation relating to the establishment of Community executive
agencies on 18 July and 21 November 2001 and on 10 April 2002.
The present document is concerned with the management of Community
programmes by a network of national agencies designated by the
11.4 The Communication from the Commission describes
three types of externalisation, namely "devolution"
or the delegation of executive responsibilities to Community public
bodies such as executive agencies (these being the subject of
the proposed Council Regulation), "decentralising" or
the delegation of executive responsibilities to national public
bodies and "outsourcing" or the letting of contracts
to the private sector. The Communication then describes the process
of "decentralising" in detail.
11.5 Decentralisation would be based on a network of
agencies set up in Member States. The network would assist in
running broad-based programmes, generally involving an element
of co-financing, which the Commission could not manage using its
own staff and which it would not be desirable to manage in an
excessively centralised fashion, but where central authorities
must still be able to intervene as necessary. Such collaboration
with national partners would provide flexibility and allow local
needs and situations to be taken into account.
11.6 The kind of task undertaken would include contract
and financial management, compilation and despatch to the Commission
of information required for Community programmes and the preparation
of recommendations to the Commission. The role of the national
agency would be subject to strict rules and would allow no margin
of discretion on the Community aspects of implementing the programme.
In particular, the national agency would not take decisions on
11.7 For any given programme the instrument setting up
the programme would provide, as necessary, for management by a
network of national agencies. The Commission mentions the possibility
of adopting a framework Regulation which would set out the general
rules for management by national networks, but does not favour
this approach in view of the difficulty of providing for sufficiently
detailed rules to cover all possible cases.
11.8 In addition, a Commission decision would set out
the responsibilities of the Commission and of the Member States
concerning national agencies and the general guidelines for implementing
the programme in question. There would also be an operating agreement
and decentralised measures agreement between the Commission and
each national agency setting out the conditions under which Community
funds would be made available and applied.
11.9 The Commission considers that, in addition to education,
training and youth matters, management by networks of national
agencies could usefully be applied in relation to statistics and
research as well as for "innovative measures" under
the Structural Funds where activities might be transferred to
public or semi-public regional bodies.
The Government's view
11.10 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 11 January 2002,
the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly) describes
the policy implications of the document as follows:
"The Government will consider this proposal very carefully,
in conjunction with the Commission's other proposals on the use
of executive agencies and the wholesale revision of the Financial
Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities.
The Government agrees with the need to overhaul the Commission's
policy on externalisation. Generally, any proposals that have
as their aim better financial and operational management of the
implementation of Community policy are to be welcomed.
"The use of networks of national agencies could provide a
more cost-effective way of managing Community programmes and will,
where existing agencies are used, take advantage of specialist
national expertise. It will be important to ensure that the principles
of financial management introduced as part of the Commission reforms
are followed, both in the setting up and operation of the agencies.
This would include the requirement for suitable audit provision.
The UK has substantial experience in the use of agencies to carry
out the tasks of government, and generally supports moves to delegate
operational management of tasks, so long as appropriate levels
of accountability, responsibility and performance management are
11.11 We endorse the Minister's welcome to proposals
which would improve the financial and operational management of
the implementation of Community policy. We agree that the appropriate
use of networks of national agencies could prove to be a more
cost-effective way of managing Community programmes, by making
use of national expertise and bringing the administration of Community
policies closer to the citizen.
11.12 Since the document contains no proposal for
legislation, and does not appear to us to be advocating a policy
which is in any way controversial, we are content to clear it.
Communication does not apply to those operations (such as under
the common agricultural policy, or the structural funds) where
Member States have a shared responsibility with the Commission
for implementing the budget. Back