Financial management within NATO is structured to ensure that the ultimate control of expenditure rests with the member countries supporting the cost of a defined activity, and is subject to consensus among them. Under the overall authority of the NAC, various bodies exercise managerial control over all four of the principal elements of the Organization’s financial structure:
- the International Staff, financed by the civil budget;
- the international military structure, financed by the military budget;
- the NATO Security Investment Programme; and
- NATO agencies.
When cooperative activities do not involve all member countries, they are, for the most part, managed by NATO production and logistics programmes within NATO agencies. They have their own supervisory boards and boards of directors, as well as finance committees and distinct sources of financing within national treasuries.
Financial regulations applied at NATO provide basic unifying principles around which the overall financial structure is articulated. They are approved by the NAC and are complemented by rules and procedures adapting them to specific NATO bodies and programmes.
Financial management of the civil and military budgets
The civil and military budgets are annual, coinciding with the calendar year. Each budget is prepared under the authority of the head of the respective NATO body and is reviewed by the Budget Committee composed of representatives of contributing member countries, and approved for execution by the NAC.
Failure to achieve consensus before the start of the financial year entails non-approval of the budget and the financing of operations, under the supervision of the Budget Committee, through provisional allocations limited to the level of the budget approved for the preceding year. This regime may last for six months, after which the NAC is required to decide either to approve the budget or to authorise continuation of interim financing.
When the budget has been approved, the head of the NATO body has discretion to execute it through the commitment and expenditure of funds for the purposes authorised. This discretion is limited by different levels of constraint prescribed by the Organization’s financial regulations regarding such matters as recourse to competitive bidding for contracts for the supply of goods and services, or transfers of credits to correct over- or under-estimates of the funding required.
Financial management of the NATO Security Investment Programme
Implementation of the NATO Security Investment Programme starts from capability packages. These packages identify the assets available to and required by NATO military commanders to fulfil specified tasks. They assess common-funded supplements (in terms of capital investment and recurrent operating and maintenance costs) as well as the civilian and military manpower required to accomplish the task. They are reviewed by the RPPB and then approved by the NAC.
Once they are approved, authorisation for individual projects can move forward under the responsibility of the Investment Committee. The “host nation” (a term which refers to either the country on whose territory the project is to be implemented, or a NATO agency or strategic command responsible for implementing a project) prepares an authorisation request. Once the Committee has agreed to the project, the host nation can proceed with its final design, contract award and implementation. Unless otherwise agreed by the Investment Committee, the bidding process is conducted among firms from those countries contributing to the project.
The financial management system which applies to the NSIP is based on an international financial clearing process. Host nations report on the expenditure foreseen on authorised projects within their responsibility. Following agreement of the forecasts by the Investment Committee, the International Staff calculates the amounts to be paid by each country and to be received by each host nation. Further calculations determine the payment amounts, currencies and which country or NATO agency will receive the funds.
Once a project has been completed, it is subject to a joint final acceptance inspection to ensure that the work undertaken is in accordance with the scope of work authorised. As soon as this report is accepted by the Investment Committee, it is added to the NATO inventory.
With respect to the military and civil budgets, the head of the NATO body is ultimately responsible for the correct preparation and execution of the budget. The administrative support for this task is largely entrusted to the Financial Controller of the agency or NATO body.
Each Financial Controller has final recourse to the Budget Committee in the case of persistent disagreement with the head of the respective NATO body regarding an intended transaction. The Financial Controller is charged with ensuring that all aspects of execution of the budget conform to expenditure authorisations, to any special controls imposed by the Budget Committee, and to the financial regulations and their associated implementing rules and procedures. He may also, in response to internal auditing, institute such additional controls and procedures as he deems necessary for maintaining accountability.
The International Board of Auditors
The independent International Board of Auditors for NATO (IBAN) is responsible for auditing the accounts of the different NATO bodies. Its principal task is to provide the NAC and member governments with the assurance that joint and common funds are properly used for the settlement of authorised expenditure and that expenditure is within the physical and financial authorisations granted.
The Board’s mandate includes not only financial but also performance audits, which extend its role beyond safeguarding accountability to the review of management practices in general. IBAN is composed of officials normally drawn from the national audit bodies of member countries. These officials are appointed by and responsible to the NAC.