The evolution of the budgetary procedure, with the new financial regulation of 2002, has increased the responsibility of the different actors and clarified the different management methods, increasing the transparency of the whole procedure. Those changes allow us to wonder if there is, today, a right balance between responsibility for budget implementation and political accountability for the Union budget's use. Since those two levels of responsibilities – responsibility for budget implementation and political responsibility for the budget's use - imply different actors, assessing the balance between those responsibilities means assessing the part played by those actors in the budgetary procedure. In order to achieve this assessment, we need to take into account both meanings of the concept of “responsibility”. The first meaning is linked to the notions of power and competence: being responsible means being in charge of something, being competent within a specific field of action – and sometimes being compelled to do something because no one else is able to do it. The second meaning is more political: it means that we, as a political organization, are submitted to an external judgment that can lead to sanctions, such as the obligation of resigning: this is the main criterion of a democracy.
[...] Article 48 of the new financial regulation, adopted by the Council on June 25th 2002, confirms the rule that was already stated in the previous regulation of 1977: it confirms the Commission's responsibility for budget implementation, whatever the management method adopted. Within the Commission, several actors are responsible for budget implementation: article 58 of the 2002 financial regulation indicates the two main actors in charge of budget implementation. The authorising officers, first, are responsible for the whole implementation process: each DG has its own, and their role is to indicate the revenue to collect and institute the expenditure. [...]
[...] The control, indeed, applies on operations that have already been made: payments and commitments, for expenditure, and cashed payments, for revenue. This control applies to all the accounts of the community, according to article 248 of the EC treaty. The Court of auditors has powers of investigation, detailed in articles 140 to 142 of the financial regulation: as a result, the Court is able to compel the institutions it controls to send as many documents as necessary for the Court to make its annual report. [...]
[...] If the Commission officially implements the budget though, as we have seen, it does not have the strict “monopoly” of implementation - , the management of the budget is thoroughly decentralised. Article 53 of the new financial regulation institutes different management methods: centralised management decentralised or shared management, and joint management. Centralised management consists of a direct management carried out by the Commission services or by specialised offices such as ECHO for humanitarian aid , and of an indirect management entrusted to community agencies (most of the time), or “national agencies”, under strict conditions. [...]
[...] This principle is confirmed by article 50 of the new financial regulation, which states that Commission shall confer on the other institutions the requisite power for the implementation of the sections of the budget relating to them”. We shall not forget the effect of the “Gentleman's agreement”, either: this principle, set in the 1970s between the Council and the European Parliament, implies that each of these two institutions refrains from judging each other's budget. Institutional autonomy does not limit the Commission's role dramatically, since 95% of the budget remains implemented by the Commission but it reinforces the degree of democracy of the procedure. [...]
[...] Finally, we shall wonder if the other actors member States, third States, international organizations which manage most of the budget, have a certain degree of responsibility and can be controlled and sanctioned for irregularities. As for shared and decentralised management, article 56 of the new financial regulation focuses on States' responsibility, and on the measures they ought to take. They should use transparent and non- discriminatory procedures, and be submitted to an internal control system, to “accounting arrangements and procedures for the presentation of accounts”, and to an independent external audit. [...]
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