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EP workshop on oversight and resources of fee-receiving EU Agencies
The European Parliament organised a workshop on 4 May 2017 in order to discuss the oversight and resources of fully self-financed agencies. The CPVO presented their views and recommendations for the committee.
The CPVO, as one of the few fully self-financed European Agencies has a tailor-made governance structure taking account of its role, in which the Administrative Council, in the presence of breeders organisations, approves the budget and human resource allocations and provides the so-called ‘discharge’ of the President.
The meeting of the European Parliament, organised by the policy department on budgetary affairs for the committee on budgets and the committee on budgetary control sought the views of the European Commission, the European Food Safety Agency (representing all agencies), the European Aviation Safety Agency (a partially self-financed agency) and the CPVO, as one of the main fully-self financed agencies.
The European Commission explained that they are open to linking staff resource requests to workload indicators, and a pilot project is currently underway with a view to having a harmonised methodology for doing this. EFSA provided a general overview of the Agencies, which now number 45, and also the role of the coordination of agencies, and finally, EASA provided their feedback on the pilot study for resource levels.
The CPVO (President Martin Ekvad) outlined a number of important issues for the committee to take into consideration.
It is important for a fee-financed agency such as the CPVO to be independent, and close to its customers (the breeders). Such independence has allowed the CPVO to develop a strong reputation in industry and also to attract and retain high quality staff.
It was reminded, that with very limited staff, and as one of the smallest agencies in the EU, the CPVO manages the largest system of its kind in the world. The key focus of the CPVO, beyond meeting regulatory requirements incumbent on all agencies, is to provide an effective, efficient and economical system of plant breeder’s rights. In terms of governance, the budget of the CPVO is approved in the presence of the breeders organisations (the representatives of the clients who fund the system), and also with the presence of the European Commission. This, coupled with audit by the European Court of Auditors and regular internal audit provide a very strong governance structure, and one indeed (as the Parliament committee was reminded) that could serve as a model for fully-financed agencies.
The CPVO, reserve fund is managed, not through discretionary spending, but rather through fee adjustment, and in this manner, fee changes in the past have allowed the reduction of the reserve from 12 million EUR in 2012 to just over EUR 500.000 in 2016, thereby returning the reserve to the breeders.
On the issue of human resources requests, the CPVO reminded that it has been increasing efficiencies which has allowed it to meet the Commission target of a 5% reduction in staffing, but in order to keep a critical mass of staff, and react to increasing application numbers, it is important that a flexible approach be taken. Further cuts across the board to all agencies would be detrimental to the functioning of the CPVO and the linking of human resources to workload indicators such as the number of applications processed or the number of active titles in force is self-evident.
The CPVO are not in favour of being part of the European Parliament discharge procedure as the current discharge in the presence of the breeders provides a more efficient system with direct contact with the ‘taxpayer’.
In summary, the key messages of the CPVO to the European Parliament were:
- Fee-receiving agencies provide significant added-value in their respective domains
- More flexibility needs to be given to manage its resources taking into consideration real workload
- The fee-receiving agencies governance models work, and should be maintained
- The CPVO is open to making annual presentations to the Parliamentary Committees with a view to increasing transparency.