I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The following countries align themselves with this statement: Turkey§, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia*, Albania*, Bosnia and Herzegovina*, Iceland+, Norway+, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and San Marino.
The EU and its Member States have long valued the work of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). Internal audit, evaluation and investigation services are important functions in an organisation, help increase its accountability and transparency and constitute a crucial support for Member States to have access to in-depth analysis of the management and performance of the Secretariat. We welcome Director Manning’s and his team’s continued efforts to enhance the quality of the services that the OIOS provides and we look forward to the conclusions of the external quality assessment of the OIOS internal audit function.
We much appreciate the outcome of the internal audits completed in 2021 and are pleased to note that all recommendations have been accepted by the Secretariat. This is a positive start. Given the importance that the EU attaches to the valuable work of the Safeguards Department, we appreciate the overall positive assessment regarding the management of human and financial resources and the good practices identified during the delivery of safeguards activities. We recognize the growing challenge of attracting a talented workforce and therefore encourage the Secretariat to strengthen its recruitment procedures, reduce unnecessary administrative burdens and replicate good practices identified in other work environments.
Taking note of the critical issues highlighted in the report, we deplore the weaknesses in the governance of low value purchasing. We call on the Secretariat to implement recommendations without delay so as to mitigate risks to an acceptable level.
Overall, we appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Secretariat to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its activities across the Agency, to use its resources in the best way and to foster accountability for results. IT security is key these days. We are therefore pleased to note that the Agency’s IT security controls have been significantly strengthened since the last audit in 2020. Finally, we welcome the progress made so far to achieve gender parity and encourage the Secretariat to make further efforts to mainstream gender in its programmes.
Turning to the Programme Evaluation Report, we note with concern the unexpected staff constraints in the Office during 2021, resulting in a delayed implementation of the work plan. We were pleased to hear during the technical briefing, that the situation is improving and will not negatively impact the implementation of the 2022 work plan.
We commend the independent evaluation of the Agency’s work on marine plastics. This evaluation is particularly important with regard to the development of NUTEC Plastics: building on the work that has been done in the past and integrating findings and recommendations to improve the development of new and ambitious initiatives are components of good governance. As we have observed in the roll-out of NUTEC Plastics and other projects of a similar nature, we recognize a discrepancy between Member States’ growing requests and the Agency’s human and financial resources. We encourage the Secretariat to further develop and strengthen inter-Departmental synergies and explore novel approaches to secure additional expertise and additional and sustained funding.
In conclusion, Mr Chair, we ask the Secretariat to give serious consideration to all findings of a systemic and cross-cutting nature, which should be addressed at Agency-wide level. We welcome the reduction in outstanding recommendations but note with concern that some old actions have not been completed yet. We encourage the Secretariat to finalise these recommendations as soon as possible.
With these comments, we take note of the Reports under this agenda item as contained in GOV/2022/9 and GOV/2022/10.
Thank you, Chair.
§ Candidate Country
* Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania as well as potential Candidate Country Bosnia and Herzegovina continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
+ Iceland and Norway are members of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.