In order to collect the most comprehensive and accurate information on the existing independent fiscal institutions in the EU, a questionnaire was sent to all EU Member States in the context of the Working Group on the Quality of Public Finances (WGQPF) attached to the Economic Policy Committee (EPC).
The questionnaire concerns the existing national institutions, others than the government, the Central Banks and the Parliament, which may have a direct or indirect influence on the conduct of fiscal policy. The bodies covered by the survey are the institutions providing independent analysis/assessment, forecasts/projections or /and recommendations in the area of fiscal developments and policy. Courts of Auditors were included when their activities go beyond the accounting control and include any of the above-mentioned tasks.
Only institutions primarily financed by public funds were considered; private think tanks and private research bodies were therefore excluded. Finally, Central Banks and Directorates of the Ministry of Finance are not considered by the definition.
For the first round of the survey, Member States were invited to fill out one questionnaire per institution. The time frame covered by the questionnaire was the period 1990-2005. For those institutions currently in place, Members States were invited to signal changes in their mandate/status or role during the period under review. For the following rounds of the survey, Member States were asked to report establishment of any new independent fiscal institutions or important changes to already existing institutions (except in 2010 when the update has been done online for the first time requiring the Member States to fill in all information available for existing and new created fiscal institutions).
The questionnaire is divided into 9 sections covering different aspects:
1. Changes to existing fiscal institutions and establishment of new fiscal institutions. This section reports about changes or creations of an institution.
2. General description of the institution. This section requires Member States to provide an overall description of the institution, the main motivations for its introduction and the relevant dates (creation and any major changes) over the period considered.
3. Activities of the fiscal institution. This section contains questions concerning the mandate of the institution and the specific task(s) it fulfils
4. Fiscal institutions providing independent analysis on fiscal policy developments. This section requests more details on the analytical activities of the institution on fiscal policy development and on the government sectors covered by the analysis.
5. Fiscal institutions providing forecasts and/or long-term projections of macroeconomic and/or budgetary variables. This part of the questionnaire provides information on the economic aggregates and sectors covered by the forecasts. The role of these forecasts for the preparation of the budget, SCP and MTBF is also reported.
6. Fiscal institutions doing normative statements and issuing recommendations. This section provides details on the sectors covered by the normative statements and recommendations – concerning notably the draft budget, the implementation of the budget, fiscal policy measures – issued by the institution and the way the government reacts to it.
7. The governing/high-level board of the fiscal institution. This section is related to the composition of the governing board of the institution (background of the members, appointment procedures, compatibility of members' responsibilities with other political posts, size of the board, years in post, voting procedures) and the size of the institution.
8. Status of the fiscal institution. This section requires information on the status of the institution. It notably asks whether the institution is formally attached to the parliament or the government. It also contains questions related to the sources of financing of the institution and whether the body can easily access inside information.
9. Output and visibility of the fiscal institution. The last section of the questionnaire deals with reports, publications, communication issued by the institution to the general public. It also allows evaluation of the influence an independent fiscal institution can have on public debate. The section also contains questions related to the perception of the influence of the institution on budgetary discipline and the quality of public finances.