The Parliament today gave the final approval, known as ‘discharge’, to the way in which the European Commission implemented the EU budget in 2015.
The discharge is an EU mechanism for transparency and accountability. It is granted by the European Parliament on a recommendation from the Member States in the Council. This annual procedure enables the Council and the European Parliament to keep the management of the taxpayers’ money under democratic control.
Apart from approving the Commission's accounts and its handling of the EU budget, the vote also signals the European Parliament's strong support for the drive to further increase the effectiveness of EU budgetary spending, through the Commission's 'EU Budget focused on Results' initiative.
The Commission is responsible for implementing the EU budget in cooperation with Member States in line with the principles of sound financial management, i.e. funds shall be spent in an effective, efficient and economic manner. A control framework has been set up to provide reasonable assurance that EU funds are paid in accordance with the relevant rules, and that measures are taken to prevent, detect and correct errors. In addition, a performance framework has been developed for the EU budget, increasing the focus on achieving results.
The Commission reports on how it has implemented the budget in various ways, most importantly by publishing the Integrated Financial Reporting Package which consists of the annual accounts, the Annual Management and Performance Report and other accountability reports.
The annual discharge procedure allows the European Parliament and the Council to hold the Commission politically accountable for the implementation of the EU budget. When granted, the discharge leads to the formal closure of the accounts of the institution for a given year.
When deciding whether to grant, postpone or refuse a discharge, the Parliament takes into consideration the accounts and the annual evaluation report prepared by the Commission along with the European Court of Auditors' annual report on how the budget has been spent and any relevant special reports from the Court. More particularly, every year the independent European Union's external auditor, the European Court of Auditors, examines: