European Parliament Press Release, 27 March 2012
The EU Medicines Agency, Environment Agency, Food Safety Authority and Council of Ministers all failed to win the Budgetary Control Committee's approval on Tuesday for the way in which they spend EU funds. All other EU Institutions and agencies were granted budget management "discharges" (approvals).
The decision to postpone the discharge for the Medicines Agency in London was taken with 14 votes in favour and 9 against. MEPs asked for an action plan to improve procurement and contract management and sought assurances as to the impartiality of the Agency's employees and of national experts temporarily seconded to it. MEPs were also not amused by the refusal of the Agency's Management Board to establish a new payment system.
The decision to postpone the discharge for the Environment Agency in Copenhagen was taken with 16 votes in favour and 10 against. MEPs criticised the fact that from June 2010 to April 2011, its Executive Director was also a member of the International Advisory Board of the NGO Earthwatch.
Some staff members, including the Executive Director herself, went on "research" trips to Earthwatch projects in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, for which, according to the Executive Director, the Agency paid Earthwatch €33,791. MEPs called on the Agency to provide detailed information on these trips and the amounts paid to Earthwatch.
MEPs also want the Environment Agency to clarify its recruitment arrangements and provide more information about the credentials of its guest scientists.
Food Safety Authority
The decision to postpone the discharge for the food safety Agency in Parma was taken with 15 votes in favour, 7 against and 4 abstentions. MEPs found it unacceptable that meetings of the 15-strong Management Board cost on average €92.630 - or €6.175 per member - and called for "drastic cuts in these excessive costs".
MEPs also pointed to conflicts of interests, given that the Chair of the Management Board was reported to have direct links to the food industry, and to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) - Europe.
The committee called on the Court of Auditors to finalise and present an audit on conflicting interests within the Authority and on the Authority itself to show what it has done to improve screening of staff members and members of expert panels.
Committee Members unanimously decided to postpone the Council's discharge. Parliament and the Council have long debated whether - and how - Parliament should fulfil its role as the discharge authority for the management of the Council's budget. MEPs hope that mediation by the Council's current Presidency might lead to a workable arrangement.
The Commission, Parliament and the European Development Fund were already granted budget discharges on Monday.
Parliament as whole will vote on the discharges during its plenary session in May. The rapporteurs are Inés Ayala Sender (S&D, ES) for the EU institutions and Monica Luisa Macovei (EPP, RO) for the agencies.