European Journal of Law Reform

Article

Why Better Regulation Demands Better Scrutiny of Results

The European Parliament’s Use of Performance Audits by the European Court of Auditors in ex post Impact Assessment

Keywords EU budget, European Parliamentary Research Service, policy evaluation, scrutiny, oversight
Authors Paul Stephenson
Author's information

307852 Paul Stephenson
Maastricht University.
  • Abstract

      Ex post impact assessment (traditionally considered part of policy evaluation) received less attention in the preceding ‘Better Regulation’ package (2011) than ex ante impact assessment. Yet, the insights generated through ex post impact assessment provide crucial input for streamlining legislation. In recognition of its contribution, the current agenda (2015) extends the reach to policy evaluation, and from financial instruments to regulatory instruments. In light of existing experience with impact assessments in Commission Directorates-General (DGs), the European Union (EU) institutions have been increasingly aware of the need to develop staff expertise in ex post (policy) evaluation, which has in the past been largely outsourced to external parties. Making sense of collected input and incorporating it within impact assessment is time consuming. Indeed, taking up the findings for practical use is a challenge for political decision makers but essential for the purposes of accountability, scrutiny and institutional learning. The challenge is more so, given the wealth of information being generated by multiple parties and the increasing technical and financial complexity of certain policy areas. The role of the Commission as an advocate of ‘Better Regulation’ has been studied extensively. However, we know relatively little about the role of the European Parliament (EP) in ex post evaluation. This article contributes to the literature on ‘Better Regulation in the EU’ by shedding light on the EP activities in the realm of scrutiny and evaluation. In particular, it looks at the Parliament’s use of special reports produced by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) through its performance audit work and how it takes on board the findings and recommendations in its scrutiny of budgetary spending. Moreover, it examines the emerging role of the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) in monitoring the outputs of the ECA and other bodies engaged in audit and evaluation, and thereby, the way in which the EPRS is helping increase the Parliament’s capacity for scrutiny and oversight.

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