Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group on Programme, Budget and Administration
GR-PBA(2009)CB5 8 July 20091
Meeting of 2 July 2009
The Rapporteur Group on Programme, Budget and Administration (GR-PBA) met on 2 July 2009, with Ambassador Jan Devadder, Permanent Representative of Belgium, in the chair. The Group considered the following items in the light of the annotated agenda (document GR-PBA(2009)9).
1. Exchange of views with the Audit Committee
(CM(2009)106 – 1st Annual Report)
1.1. The group held an exchange of views with Ms Bettina Jakobsen, Chairperson of the Audit Committee, on the basis of the Audit Committee’s first annual report (CM(2009)106). Delegations welcomed the report and made a number of comments on certain aspects of that report. The French delegation
contested the drafting of paragraph 24 of the Audit Committee’s annual report for 2008. This paragraph concerned a matter that had given rise to great controversy and reflected an inaccurate appraisal of the qualities of the French candidature. It continued to contest the interpretation that the French candidate would not concentrate on performance audits; this was precisely one of the key qualities of the Cour des Comptes. In response to this intervention, one other delegation stated that it appreciated the involvement of the Audit Committee, which it considered had acted in a professional manner. Ms Jakobsen stressed that the Audit Committee had acknowledged that both the candidates would provide a high quality and thorough audit and that the paragraph should be read in that context.
1.2. One delegation welcomed the assessment that the Council of Europe was in a positive stage of development. This delegation noted with regret that there were delays in the implementation of audit recommendations (cf. paragraph 43) and looked forward to future analyses on the causes of these delays. It also welcomed the future work on key risks facing the Organisation as well as on core control and risk management initiatives which its authorities considered were essential in making progress in all four of the goals that the Audit Committee had set itself. In response to a related question, Ms Jakobsen referred to a project currently being carried out within the Organisation by an external consultant which should give rise to an analysis of the key risks. She hoped the Audit Committee would be in a position to report more thoroughly on this in next year’s report.
1.3. Concluding the debate on this item, the Chair noted that the group could recommend the draft decision as set out in the annotated agenda to the Deputies for adoption without debate.
2. Exchange of views with the Internal Auditor
(CM(2009)85 - Annual Report 2008 of the Directorate of Internal Audit)
2.1. The group held an exchange of views with Mr Paul Ernst, Internal Auditor, on the basis of his annual report for 2008 (CM(2009)85). Delegations welcomed the report and made a number of comments, in particular as to the importance of implementing the audit recommendations in a timely manner. In response to questions, the Internal Auditor stressed that, in addition to an adequate training plan, it was important to ensure that staff entrusted with financial tasks possess a relevant financial background and professional qualifications. He noted that this question was being addressed. One delegation also stressed the importance of tackling the questions raised in the audit report concerning monitoring mechanisms.
2.2. Finally, the Internal Auditor noted that the audit plan was presented to the Secretary General, after consultation with the External Auditor and the Audit Committee, on the basis of the significance of the area concerned and the risk associated with it, as well as in response to specific requests made by management or the Committee of Ministers. The work carried out in relation to the European Roma and Travellers’ Forum was an example of the latter.
2.3. Summing up the exchange of views, the Chair noted that there had been a suggestion to modify the draft decision as set out in the annotated agenda. He proposed, instead, to add a new draft decision “underlin[ing] the need to accelerate implementation of the recommendations made in [the] report”. This was agreed.
3. Financial Regulations and supplementary provisions of the Council of Europe: appointment of the External Auditor
3.1. The group examined the revised draft regulations for the appointment of the external auditor, in the light of two oral amendments submitted by a delegation. The Chair recalled that the draft text as proposed had been drafted in accordance with the compromise already arrived at within the GR-PBA at its meeting of 3 February 2009. He noted that no delegation had supported the amendments presented and he proposed to transmit the draft text as it appeared in document CM(2009)31 to the Deputies for adoption without further debate. This was agreed, with the exception of the one delegation which agreed ad referendum (deadline: midday on 3 July 2009).
4. Conditions of service of the judges of the European Court of Human Rights [and of the Commissioner for Human Rights]
(CM(2009)40 rev, CM(2009)40 rev add and DD(2009)231)
4.1. The group continued examination of this item in the light of document CM(2009)40 rev add, in which the Secretariat had provided clarifications in reply to the questions raised by delegations at the meeting of the GR-PBA on 28 May 2009. That document also set out certain amendments to the initial proposal – concerning orphan’s pensions and invalidity aspects – pursuant to letter from Jean-Paul Costa, President of the Court, (cf. DD(2009)123). The Chair noted that President Costa had informed him that the majority of judges could accept the Secretary General’s amended proposals. The Chair considered that the group now had all the necessary elements at their disposal to be able to arrive at a conclusion.
4.2. The Registrar of the Court added that, at its plenary administrative session earlier in the week, the Court had accepted the Secretary General’s amended proposal to integrate the Judges into the Council of Europe’s pension and health schemes. He recalled that the question had been the subject of lengthy debate with several proposals and counterproposals since 1998 and that although few questioned the principle at stake, finding a solution had been very difficult. He expressed the Court’s appreciation for the Secretary General’s efforts to find a solution which was acceptable to the Court whilst remaining neutral from the budgetary perspective. The Chair of the Staff Committee reiterated the latter’s opposition to the proposal for the reasons set out in DD(2009)231 and advocated a prudent approach in the light of the difficult budgetary situation.
4.3. A number of delegations stated that they still had reservations about the Secretary General’s proposal and were not in a position to support its approval. In particular, their reservations concerned the medium and long term impact of the proposal which they felt deserved further detailed study. They felt that budgetary neutrality in the medium and long term had not been sufficiently justified. Taking up the suggestion made by the Chair of the Staff Committee, one delegation considered that more thought could be given to introducing a provision that any medium or long term uncertainties should be born by the judges themselves. Another delegation felt that the question of a possible third pension scheme should also be taken into account. In response to these comments, another delegation considered that it was impossible in an actuarial study to give absolute assurance as regards the medium and long term impact, but that should the need arise, the Committee of Ministers could always take any necessary measures in the future. A number of other delegations noted that they could support the Secretary General’s amended proposal, particularly in the light of its budgetary neutrality and the fact that it was acceptable to the Court. Some of these hoped that the remaining questions could be clarified so that a decision could be taken as soon as possible.
4.4. Concluding the debate under this item, the Chair reiterated his opinion that all the relevant information had been made available to delegations and questions answered as far as was reasonably feasible. He noted the opposition or hesitations of a number of delegations. However, he considered that discussions on the technical aspects of the question had been exhausted within the GR-PBA. He did not intend to continue with this matter within the group and would report as such to the Committee of Ministers.
5. Pension Reserve Fund – 1st report for 2009 of the Management Board to the Committee of Ministers
5.1. The group agreed to recommend the draft decision as set out in the annotated agenda to the Depuites for adoption without debate
6. Priorities for 2010 – Budgetary Implications
Proposals by the Secretary General
(CM(2009)67 and CM/Del/Dec(2009)1056/1.7, TC-INF(2009)CB1, Parliamentary Assembly Opinion No. 272 (2009) and No. 273 (2009), Congress Rec_267 (2009) and Rec_268 (2009))
6.1. The group considered this item on the basis of draft decisions proposed by the Chair (cf. DD(2009)368) following the informal consultation meeting on information offices which had taken place on 25 June. He had informed delegations of his reasoning behind the proposal during the informal consultation meeting, including the related budgetary aspects concerning the first two draft decisions. In particular, the cost of maintaining the 10 information offices for one year had been provided in document DD(2009)342. In view of that, it was necessary to provide time to the Secretariat and members states to examine possible alternative arrangements for financing at least part of that cost in particular as regards the appropriations for activities and for staff expenses. The Secretariat would report back before 15 September and the group would examine the outcome at its meeting on 22 September.
6.2. In the ensuing debate a large number of delegations supported the Chair’s proposed draft decisions which they considered constituted a good basis for moving forward on the question of the information offices. One delegation regretted however that the draft decisions did not deal with what would happen should the necessary funding not be found. On another matter, this delegation, supported by others, questioned the decision of the Assembly (cf.
Opinion 273 (2009), paragraph 11) to eliminate the verbatim records of debates in German and Italian as part of its efficiency savings. They considered that this decision was clearly in contradiction with Resolution (70) 52 on Council of Europe languages and that it would first be necessary to revise that Resolution before the Assembly implemented its own opinion.
6.3. In response to one delegation, the Chair noted that the Secretary General would be required to prepare the draft budget in the light of observations made by delegations. The synopses of the group’s various meetings on this item were part of the reference documents and the Secretariat had followed the debate. He acknowledged that this was not a perfect procedure but he did not feel that revising the Secretary General’s priority document would further discussions and could provoke an unnecessary repetition of certain discussions at this stage. Finally, he proposed that the group recommend the draft decisions as set out in DD(2009)368 to the Deputies for adoption without debate. This was agreed.
7. Other business
8. Date of the next meeting
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 10 a.m.
Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 3 p.m.
Thursday, 22 October 2009 at 10 a.m. (Programme of Activities).
Thursday, 5 November 2009 at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Note 1 This document has been classified restricted at the date of issue; it will be declassified in accordance with Resolution Res(2001)6 on access to Council of Europe documents.