EPSO's procedure for checking supporting documents of candidates

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  • Case: OI/1/2012/MHZ
    Opened on 19 Jan 2012 - Decision on 19 Dec 2012
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Personnel Selection Office
  • Field(s) of law: General, financial and institutional matters
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Lawfulness (incorrect application of substantive and/or procedural rules) [Article 4 ECGAB]
  • Subject matter(s): Administration and Staff Regulations
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Copyright: Stocklib © Ashwin Kharidehal Abhirama

Summary of the decision on own-initiative inquiry OI/1/2012/MHZ concerning the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO)

Starting in 2010, EPSO introduced a new procedure, whereby selection boards check the supporting documents only of those candidates who are successful in the tests conducted in the Assessment Centre, that is, at the end of the competition. If the selection boards do not accept the supporting documents of the successful candidates, those candidates are not placed on the reserve list.

The Ombudsman regularly receives complaints from candidates affected by this procedure. Since EPSO had not explained in any public documents the reasons for the procedure, the Ombudsman opened an own-initiative inquiry in order to receive clarification on the matter.

Accordingly, he asked EPSO to indicate whether, in competitions in which no more than 100 candidates qualify for tests in the Assessment Centre, selection boards could verify the supporting documents, in particular those relating to education and professional experience, before the invitations to the Assessment Centre are issued. He also asked EPSO to take into account, in its reply, (i) the possible savings to the EU budget from such an approach; (ii) the interest of candidates in being informed if their professional experience is not considered relevant before they invest time and effort in preparing for the assessment centre tests; and (iii) the fact that, in the competitions organised before 2010, the supporting documents were verified before the invitations for written/oral exams were issued.

In its opinion, EPSO in substance took the view that (i) the indication of the relevant professional experience/diplomas in the online application and (ii) the availability of the same data in the supporting documents that are in the candidates' possession, constitute effective guarantees for candidates that the selection board will consider these documents as sufficient when checking them one by one, after the assessment tests have taken place. It also explained that, in the new procedure, the selection boards needed to check fewer supporting documents and, as a result, money and time is saved.

The Ombudsman was not entirely convinced by these arguments and remained of the view that, given the broad discretion which selection boards enjoy, they could always reach the conclusion that supporting documents are insufficient, after they have examined them. Moreover, he also pointed out that the time savings involved were insignificant in the context of the length of the procedure for the entire competition and if compared to the time it took to have the candidates who lacked sufficient supporting documents go through the long and costly assessment centre tests.

These considerations notwithstanding, the Ombudsman considered that, since this procedure is being carried out upon the express wishes of the institutions for which EPSO organises the competitions, further inquiries into this matter are not justified. He therefore closed the case.