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Conference on "Public Internal Control systems in the EU Member States"

Building on the conclusions of the 2009 Conference that focussed on the achievements in Public Internal Control reforms in the (former) Candidate Countries, the second  'peer-to-peer' Conference on Public Internal Control (PIC) was held in Brussels on 27-28 February 2012, this time concentrating on the various PIC systems currently in operation in the 27 EU Member States (MS). Candidate Countries also participated in the event.

The Conference brought together some 90 PIC experts, from Ministries of Finance, SIGMA1 and Commission Services. As well as fuelling discussion of key internal control concepts, the Conference held the official presentation of the Compendium on PIC in the EU. This Compendium contains Member State descriptions of their internal control systems and also includes an analytical overview by SIGMA. Such a unique document will allow all stakeholders to identify and compare good practices in the area of PIC at EU level for national revenues and expenditure.

Key opening addresses were delivered by Hervé Jouanjean of Directorate-General for Budget, who underlined the importance of effective PIC structures, especially given the current debt and euro crises, and the Commission's support to continue this kind of shared learning and 'peer-to-peer' networking, if demanded by Member States.

Brian Gray of the Internal Audit Service took the opportunity to underline the importance and the added value of internal audit for management to ensure that the organisation achieves the expected results in a most economic, efficient and effective manner.

Bianca Brétéché, SIGMA representative, provided an overview of the different PIC environments in the EU and outlined the trend towards continuous development/refinement of Internal Control. Four eminent experts gave their views on the two key cornerstones of MS internal control systems, i.e. Managerial Accountability for the execution of the budget and functionally independent Internal Audit). These topics were elaborated in detail by the Member States in eight thematic workshops. The interactive opinion survey, that followed, highlighted participants' perception about ongoing reforms and the areas that could benefit from further scrutiny.

The most eye-catching conclusion of the Conference is that an overwhelming majority of participants want the PIC Network Group to continue. Provided that a substantial number of Members States would confirm this approach, the Group could meet at regular intervals (18-24 months), facilitated by the Commission and discuss items prepared by a Working Group of 4-6 MS/Commission experts. It was generally agreed that these items should be tailored to practical problems whilst respecting the cultural environment in which the national PIC set-ups operate.

Concrete outputs could include position papers on good PIC practices including, for example delegation structures to middle management, interaction between internal audit and financial inspection and use of Audit Committees; as well as case studies suggesting solutions to specific issues. Such documents would have no binding effect but rather serve to illustrate good practice.

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[1] The SIGMA programme provides Support for Improvement in Governance and Management. It is a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union, principally financed by the EU.