Select Committee on European Communities Thirty-Third Report



Text of an internal Commission memorandum of October 1997 provided by DG 1A in response to a request by Sub-Committee C for a note on the now Common Services Directorate (see paragraph 74 of the Report)


  Community aid to non-member countries has developed considerably in recent years in terms both of the sums administered and the range of tasks performed.

  This year the Union's aid to non-member countries will total almost ECU 7 billion (plus ECU 2-3 billion in loans and guarantees). The sums involved impose more efficient management of Community aid, especially since the Commission has relatively fewer staff to manage this aid than most Member States. It is, moreover, highly unlikely that further human resources will become available in the near future.

  The diverse aid instruments and management procedures are crying out for coordination and consistency, though not at the expense of the flexibility needed to copy with specific (humanitarian aid) situations or changing circumstances.

  As matters stand, Community aid to non-member countries is not receiving due recognition and generates patchy results in terms of international political, geostrategic and economic influence.

  Hence the need for a system of administrative and technical management able to:

  —  simplify and rationalise the management of Community aid;

  —  make practices more consistent;

  —  make dealings with economic operators more transparent;

  —  generate economies of scale;

  —  take account of the highly political nature of the Community's aid programmes to non-member countries, some of which call for shrewd political judgment, and their specific management requirements, including the degree to which administration is devolved to the national authorities of the recipient countries.

  This proposal is a joint effort by the external relations DGs, which have been cooperating with DG IX, DG XIX and the SG in a working party that has produced a series of three reports to the external relations DGs, and the relevant Members of the Commission since it was set up in June 1996. The Members concerned have opted for the approach set out in this memorandum.

  It is proposed that the Commission set up a "Joint Service for the management of Community aid to non-member countries". This in-house service would be common to the Directorates-General responsible for implementing Community aid to non-member countries, namely I, IA, IB, VIII and ECHO.

  By setting up this service, which is consistent with its general guidelines for SEM 2000 and MAP 2000, the Commission:

  —  aims to balance the administrative autonomy vital for such a service to work effectively with the supervision that Directorates-General have to exercise over the implementation of their aid programmes to ensure that the joint structure continues to serve the objectives laid down in their respective fields;

  —  aims to ensure that all involved in the management of Community aid, be it in the existing DGs or the new service, at headquarters or in the delegations, assume their responsibilities in full;

  —  proposes that the Members dealing with external relations be collectively responsible for the service. This situation will be reviewed in the light of the declaration adopted by the Amsterdam European Council on the organisation and working of the Commission. This does not preclude other options from being taken into account in the longer term.

  Steps will be taken to make sure that the delegations, the external relations DGs and the Joint Service interact smoothly on the basis of their respective responsibilities.

1.  Functions and tasks of the Joint Service

  Strategy and policy-making are handled by the external relations DG responsible for the geographical area concerned. The plan is to transfer to the Joint Service the financial, accounting, contractual and legal side of project management together with certain technical aspects.

  In order to ensure the viability of the system and make cooperation with non-member countries more effective, permanent cooperation between the external relations DGs and the Joint Service is vital, even where primary responsibility switches from one to another at different stages in the project cycle (programming, appraisal, execution, supervision and evaluation).

  At this stage it is clear that programming, the political decision authorising the commitment of appropriations, responsibility for the overall terms of reference and the signing of financing agreements are matters for the geographical DGs. The same goes for representation and the exercise of political responsibility outside the confines of the Commission.

  By way of illustration and subject to the detailed studies to be presented by the sub-working party set up for this purpose, which is due to present its conclusions any day now, the tasks devolved to the Joint Service could include:

     the preparation and management of invitations to tender

     the drafting of contracts and their administrative and technical supervision

     the preparation of transactions and their entry in the accounts

     the signing of contracts

     specific terms of reference

     the preparation and administrative and technical supervision of contracts for evaluation projects and programmes decided by the DGs

     the administrative and financial management of contracts with external project support staff

     supervision and administrative control of consultancy firms

     inspection, auditing and fraud prevention

     logistical support for publicity campaigns

     the creation and management of databases on consultants, suppliers, external staff etc.

     computer aspects of project and programme management

     back-up for the organisation of meetings at the request of the external relations DGs

     the horizontal tasks necessary to the working of any administrative body.

2.  Human resources

  Officials and external staff will be transferred to the service from DGs I, IA, IB, VIII and ECHO (headquarters). Staffing will be at the level necessary for the proper performance of the tasks to be transferred to the Joint Service.

  Officials of the Joint Service will be subject to the same rules as staff of the external relations DGs as regards the obligation to serve abroad and rotation.

3.  Functioning of the Joint Service

  The Joint Service is to be headed by an official appointed by the Commission on a proposal from Mr Liikanen approved by the other Members of the Commission concerned.

  The Head of the Service will be responsible for managing the Joint Service under the supervision of the Directorates-General concerned and in line with decisions adopted in their spheres of competence. He will work within the framework of an organisation chart drawn up according to the procedures in force on the basis of posts redeployed from the Directorates-General concerned.

  The Joint Service will be supervised by a Management Committee comprising the Directors-General of DGs I, IA, IB, VIII and the Head of the Joint Service. The Committee will be chaired for a period of two years by a member to be appointed by common accord. The Director of ECHO is also a member of the Management Committee.

  The Committee, which will give the direction necessary for the Joint Service to work properly, will meet regularly and whenever its chairman, a member or the Head of the Joint Service believes it necessary.

  The Committee will be responsible for:

     establishing the Joint Service's overall priorities;

     adopting the Joint Service's annual work programme and the annual report on the execution thereof;

     arbitrating on questions of mutual interest in disputes between the Joint Service and one or more Directorates-General.

Responsibilities of the Head of the Joint Service

  —  Administrative

  The Head of the Joint Service will have the powers invested in a Director-General or Head of Service in the matter of AIPN (appointment of official, promotions etc.) and AHCC (authorisation to conclude contracts and other acts relating to other staff).

  —  Financial

  Subject to the detailed studies to be presented by the sub-working party set up for this purpose, which is scheduled to present its conclusions on 15 October, the Head of the Joint Service will be responsible for preparing transactions and entering them in the accounts. He will manage and exercise subdelegated authorising powers, with the external relations DGs retaining delegated authorising powers for the commitment of expenditure.

4.  Draft Decision

  The Commission is invited to adopt the following decisions:

  —  A Joint Service is set up with effect from 15 April 1998[106] to manage Community aid to non-member countries.

  —  The service will:

       fulfil the role described in this memorandum and implementing procedures adopted by the Commission according to the usual procedures;

       draw its staff from the external relations Directorate-General; in coordination with the Secretariat-General, DG IX, DG XIX and the external relations Directorates-General, the Inspectorate-General will carry out a screening exercise as soon as possible to identify, with due regard for the responsibilities of the geographical Directorates-General concerned, the posts, personnel and other administrative resources to be transferred for the proper implementation of the tasks assigned to it. A steering committee will be set up at this time.

  The Joint Service's organisation chart will be adopted according to the rules in force, taking account of the recommendations to be made by the sub-working parties. The organisation charts of the external relations Directorates-General will be altered accordingly.

106   The Joint Service came into operation in September 1998. Back

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