We need a full audit of ECB accountability – Hayes
Brian Hayes MEP today said that the Eurozone needs a complete audit of the ECB’s accountability and transparency procedures, similar to initiatives in the US Congress which proposed to ‘audit the Fed’.
“The ECB is not accountable in any serious way. We know all too well in Ireland that the ECB did not provide a proper account of their actions during Ireland’s banking crisis, despite a number of attempts to get Mario Draghi or other current members of ECB staff to appear before the banking inquiry.
“The ECB claims that it is accountable only to the European Parliament. Yet, when it sees fit it has appeared before national parliaments such as the Bundestag in Germany and the Spanish Parliament. Mario Draghi has said that the ECB does not appear before parliamentary inquiries – a position which is completely wrong and completely unjustifiable.
“MEPs have serious issues communicating the ECB. Mario Draghi appears before the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee four times per year, where only a select few MEPs get a five minute slot including the question and an answer. It represents the most minimal engagement possible.
“Even where MEPs submit written questions to the ECB it takes 8 weeks before getting a reply.I struggle to see how this is presented as adequate accountability for the European Parliament.
“The ECB is a relatively new organisation, founded in 1998, and since its inception its powers have increased dramatically. It is now the single supervisor for all systemically important banks in the Eurozone. Its membership has gone from 11 countries to 19. It has recently begun its quantitative easing programme in order to stimulate the Eurozone economy by pumping huge amounts of money into it. The ECB has also decreased interest rates to rock bottom levels.
“Given the huge increase in powers and responsibilities, it is time that we examine ECB accountability. In the US this is an issue constantly under discussion in the Congress and Senate. In 2009, a bill commonly known as ‘Audit the Fed’ (Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009) was passed through the US Congress and Senate. This gave the Comptroller General the authority to complete an audit of the Fed’s decision making. While the bill may not have gone far enough, other attempts to introduce further audits of the Fed came before Congress and Senate in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
“We need an audit of ECB accountability and transparency. It is quite astonishing that this issue is rarely discussed in EU institutions.
“A full audit of ECB accountability and transparency is possible under the EU Treaties. The European Court of Auditors, while it does not have the power to examine the ECB’s budget and accounts, it does have the power to examine the ECB’s operational efficiency. The European Commission can also propose amendments to the ECB’s statute and could propose legislation to allow an independent body undertake an audit of ECB accountability and transparency.
“While I do understand that the ECB needs sufficient independence to carry out its activities, their powers cannot be blindly accepted by European politicians. Following the disastrous financial crisis, it is time we had a proper in-depth examination of the ECB’s procedures to be accountable to European citizens and their representatives.”