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Decision in case 1861/2016/AMF on the decision to exclude a candidate from further participation in a recruitment competition for the EU civil service organized by the European Personnel Selection Office

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  • Case: 1861/2016/AMF
    Opened on 03 Mar 2017 - Decision on 03 Mar 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Personnel Selection Office

The case concerned the decision not to admit a candidate to the next stage of a recruitment competition for the EU civil service organized by the European Personnel Selection Office, based on an assessment of the candidate’s qualifications. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found no maladministration by the European Personnel Selection Office.  

The background to the complaint

1. The complainant participated in a recruitment competition[1] organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) for the selection of auditors to work for the EU civil service. The complainant obtained a pass mark in the first phase of the recruitment competition, the computer-based multiple choice tests, and was admitted to the next stage of the recruitment competition, namely the selection based on qualifications, also called the “talent screener”. At the talent screener stage of the recruitment competition, the information that the candidates had provided in their application about their qualifications was assessed against a number of selection criteria set out in the notice for the recruitment competition. In November 2016, EPSO informed the complainant that she had not obtained enough points in the talent screener to be admitted to the next stage of the competition. The complainant had obtained 6 points, while the threshold to be admitted to the next stage was 7 points.

2. The complainant submitted a request for EPSO to review the decision not to admit her to the next stage of the competition. She contested the fact that she had not been awarded any points under Selection Criterion 1: “A recognised internal, external audit (including IT audit)/accountancy certification or professional qualification”.

3. In December 2016, the Selection Board confirmed its decision not to admit her to the next stage of the competition on the basis of the results of her “talent screener”.

4. Unsatisfied with this decision, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman on 19 December 2016.

The inquiry

5. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the complaint that the Selection Board was wrong not to award any points to the complainant for her certification in accountancy, which would in her view have admitted her to the next stage of the recruitment competition.

6. In the course of the inquiry, the Ombudsman’s inquiry team duly considered the information provided in the complaint. In particular, the inquiry team carried out a thorough analysis of the correspondence that had taken place between EPSO and the complainant before the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

Arguments made by the complainant and EPSO

7.  The complainant argues that the Selection Board should take into account her certificate in the area of accountancy, issued by the “Bruxelles Formation” centre after a three-month course which covered topics such as financial analysis, enterprise diagnosis, cost management and balanced scorecards.

8. In its response to the complainant’s review request, EPSO explained to the complainant that the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union establishes that selection boards enjoy a wide margin of discretion when defining the selection criteria included in the notices of competition[2]. The Court has also established that selection boards enjoy wide discretion in determining whether the qualifications and professional experience of a candidate correspond to the level required by the recruitment competition. The decision by a selection board can only be put in question in case of a manifest error of assessment[3].

9. EPSO also explained to the complainant, that the “talent screener” phase of the selection process, during which the candidates’ qualifications were assessed, was of a comparative nature, with a view to find the best candidates. This meant that the answers provided by each candidate were evaluated taking into account the replies provided by other candidates.

The Ombudsman's assessment

10. As EPSO explained to the complainant, a decision by a Selection Board regarding the assessment of the qualifications and professional experience of a candidate can only be questioned in cases of a manifest error.

11. The “talent screener” phase of the recruitment competition in question was of a comparative nature. The answers provided by each candidate were thus evaluated taking into account the replies provided by other candidates. Therefore, even if the complainant provided proof that she has followed a three-month training in accountancy, the Selection Board may have been entirely justified in not awarding her any points for that training when comparing it with the certifications or professional qualifications presented by the other candidates.

12. From the above, there is nothing to suggest that the Selection Board committed a manifest error in its assessment of the complainant´s certification in accountancy. Furthermore, EPSO has provided the complainant with the necessary explanations as to why it was possible for her not to be awarded any points for Selection Criterion 1 in the “talent screener” phase of the recruitment competition.

Conclusion

On the basis of the inquiry into this complaint, the Ombudsman closes it with the following conclusion[4]:

There was no maladministration by the European Personnel Selection´s Office.

The complainant and the European Personnel Selection´s Office will be informed of this decision.

Strasbourg, 03/03/2017

Tina Nilsson
Head of Inquiries - Unit 4

 

 

[1] EPSO AD/322/16 AD5,  http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ%3AC%3A2016%3A171A%3ATOC

[2] See, for example Judgment of 16 October 1990 in Case T-132/89 Gallone v Council, ECLI:EU:T:1990:60,  [paragraph 27]; Judgement of the 5 February 1997  T-207/95 Ibarra Gil v Commission, ECLI:EU:T:1997:12, [paragraph 66]

[3] See, for example, Judgment of 11 May 2005, de Stefano v Commission, T-25/03, ECLI:EU:T:2005:168, [paragraph 34]; Judgment of 28 November 2002 in Case  T-332/01, Pujals Gomis v Commission, FP-I-A-00233 [paragraphs 39-41]

[4] Information on the review procedure can be found on the Ombudsman’s website: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/resources/otherdocument.faces/en/70669/html.bookmark