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Decision on the decision by the European Commission to recover EU funds granted under a contract for the provision of technical assistance in Gabon (case 1650/2021/EIS)

Pondělí | 13 března 2023

The case concerned the decision by the European Commission to recover EU funds granted under a contract for the provision of technical assistance in Gabon. The complainant considered that the cost of the protective measures it had adopted when the ‘contracting authority’ suspended the contract should have been added to the price of the contract, and thus covered by EU funds. The complainant also claimed that, as the amount recovered by the Commission was equivalent to the amount owed to the complainant by the contracting authority for the protective measures, the Commission should have offset the amount it sought to recover by this amount.

The Ombudsman considered that there was a sound legal basis for the Commission’s decision, and that it was reasonable for the Commission to recover the funds. The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision on how the EU Delegation to Mauritania handled a contract for auditing and accounting services (case 2196/2019/NH)

Úterý | 24 ledna 2023

The case concerned the decision by the EU Delegation to Mauritania to terminate a contract for auditing services with an audit company. The Delegation argued that the audit company, which had its seat in Morocco, had failed to base its auditors in Mauritania permanently, despite its contractual obligation to do so. The Delegation had also decided to reject one of the audit reports that the company submitted because it deemed that the report had been signed by an unauthorised staff member of that company. The Delegation also refused to pay the company for the remaining reports.

The Ombudsman conducted an extensive inquiry. She found that the Delegation’s decision to reject the audit report and to terminate the contract was not unreasonable and did not amount to maladministration. The Ombudsman did not find maladministration in how the Delegation handled the subsequent amicable settlement procedure.

However, how the Delegation handled the communication with the complainant, in particular in providing comments on draft audit reports and explaining clearly its decisions, did amount to maladministration.

As these issues occurred five years ago, the Ombudsman considered that no purpose would be served by making a recommendation on that aspect of the complaint.


Decision on how the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia dealt with issues related to the performance evaluation report of a former staff member (case 1041/2021/OAM)

Pátek | 24 června 2022

This decision is not published as there is a risk that the complainant may be identified from the specific circumstances of the case.

Decision on the European Commission’s decision to recover grants paid under EU funded projects carried out by a national police authority (case 1733/2020/LM)

Pondělí | 11 října 2021

The complainant, a national police force, received two grants from the European Commission for projects to fight transnational crime, which it carried out successfully. Following audits of the projects, the Commission found that a big part of the costs were ineligible mainly due to the lack of supporting documents. The Commission therefore decided to recover a considerable part of the grants. The complainant turned to the Ombudsman arguing that the decision was disproportionate and that the Commission had not shown flexibility. The complainant considered that the Commission should have allowed it more time to send additional supporting documents and that it should have done another audit.

The Ombudsman found that it was reasonable for the Commission to conclude that the complainant had violated its contractual obligations under the ‘grant agreement’. The Commission had acted in accordance with EU financial rules and given the complainant ample opportunity to provide comments and submit additional supporting documents as proof of the costs it claimed. The Commission had also shown flexibility by agreeing to review supporting documents submitted late. The Ombudsman thus closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 616/2020/DL on how the European Commission dealt with a contractor that had not paid its consultants

Středa | 19 května 2021

The complainant worked as an expert for an external contractor to the EU Delegation to Ghana. Not having been paid for her work, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman, claiming that the EU Delegation had failed to ensure that the external contractor respects its obligations towards the experts.

The Ombudsman found that both the EU Delegation and the European Commission had acted in accordance with the applicable rules when withholding some payments under the contract. She also found that they had taken appropriate action vis-a-vis the contractor to try to resolve the situation that affected the complainant. The Ombudsman considers that the Commission has adequate mechanisms in place to monitor contractors, and she trusts the Commission will use these mechanisms to monitor the situation and to take action within its remit if needed.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the case with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case OI/1/2020/LM on the European External Action Service´s decision (EEAS) not to pay a severance grant to a retired staff member of the EU Delegation to Algeria

Úterý | 02 února 2021

The complaint concerned the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) decision not to pay a severance grant to a locally hired staff member in the EU Delegation to Algeria. The Delegation had supported paying the grant, arguing that this had been the practice based on an administrative note.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the staff member had no ‘legitimate expectation’, in the legal sense, to receive a severance grant. She thus closed the case with a finding of no-maladministration. The Ombudsman pointed out, however, that it was regrettable that the EEAS had failed to ensure clear and consistent communication to staff about the rules applying to the individuals in question. This lack of clarity left the staff member concerned with an incorrect understanding of the situation. As the EEAS is phasing out the relevant staff category, the Ombudsman will not pursue this matter. She trusts, however, that the EEAS will, in the meantime, ensure that the employment conditions applicable to the individuals in question are clarified.

Decision in case 154/2020/DL on how the Research Executive Agency dealt with a recruitment procedure carried out in the context of an EU-funded project under the Horizon 2020 programme

Pondělí | 09 listopadu 2020

The case concerned a recruitment procedure organised by the University of Ljubljana as part of an EU-funded project, under the Horizon 2020 programme. The complainant claimed that irregularities occurred in the recruitment procedure, and reported this to the Research Executive Agency (REA), which is responsible for the implementation of the programme. Dissatisfied with how REA dealt with his complaint, he turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found that REA investigated the issue and advised the university on steps to take to address certain shortcomings it had identified. The university followed REA’s advice.

The Ombudsman therefore found that REA dealt appropriately with the matter and closed the case, finding no maladministration.