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Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 226/2001/ADB against the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)


Strasbourg, 13 November 2001

Dear Ms T.,

On 5 February 2001, you made a complaint to the European Ombudsman in which you alleged that the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) failed to pay you for services provided by you without contract between January 1999 and August 1999.

On 28 February 2001, I forwarded the complaint to the President of the EMCDDA. The EMCDDA sent its opinion on 31 May 2001. I forwarded it to you with an invitation to make observations, which you sent on 20 July 2001.

I am writing now to let you know the results of the inquiries that have been made.

THE COMPLAINT

The complainant worked as a liaison between the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP). She began to work on a contract between January 1997 and December 1998. For the period of time between January 1999 and August 1999, she continued to work although no contract was signed. She had however been given the assurances by the EMCDDA's that she should be paid for her work and that a contract should be issued. Despite several requests in relation to it, the complainant never received an official reply. Although she received verbal assurances by the EMCDDA that the amounts owed to her (12,500.00 € plus interests) would be paid, the payment was never made. On 5 February 2001, she therefore lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman and made following allegations:

1. Despite repeated assurances, the complainant was not paid for the work carried out without contract between January 1999 and August 1999.

2. The complainant never received an official reply to her letters requesting the payment of her work.

The complainant claimed she should be paid for the work she carried out on the basis of a verbal agreement for the period between January 1999 and August 1999, i.e. the verbally agreed fee of 12,500.00 € plus interests.

THE INQUIRY

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction's opinion

The opinion of the EMCDDA on the complaint was in summary the following:

Between January 1999 and August 1999 the complainant was verbally asked by the EMCDDA to carry out some work. The conclusion of a formal contract covering this work was planned for the beginning of the year 1999. Nevertheless, it was delayed because of a reserve put by the EU budgetary authority on a substantial part of the budget foreseen for the 1999 work program.

Although this budgetary reserve was finally withdrawn in July 1999, the contract could no more be concluded, given that in the meantime the complainant had begun to work as an official at the UNDCP. The EMCDDA therefore proposed an "ex post" financial commitment to its Financial controller in order to pay the complainant for her services. The Financial controller approved it on 18 May 2001. The work carried out by the complainant had to be verified by the EMCDDA in order to confirm the amount of her remuneration.

To avoid similar situations in the future, the EMCDDA reminded its staff that any external provision of services for the Centre had to be contractually concluded. The EMCDDA also strengthened its internal administrative and financial procedures and reinforced its internal controls.

The complainant's observations

The European Ombudsman forwarded the EMCDDA' s opinion to the complainant with an invitation to make observations. In her reply, the complainant stated the following:

She welcomed the confirmation by the EMCDDA of the existence of a verbal agreement on services carried out between January 1999 and August 1999. She also noted with satisfaction the EMCDDA' s information about the availability of the funds needed for the payment.

Nevertheless, the complainant felt surprised that the EMCDDA had to verify the work she carried out in order to confirm the amount of her remuneration. She considered that she performed the same tasks as the one specified in prior written contracts and which had been carried out to the EMCDDA's satisfaction. The EMCDDA never raised the issue of the entitlement to a full remuneration in this context. She concluded therefore that there was no need to raise the issue of the amount of her remuneration.

Further inquiries

In July 2001 and on 16 October 2001, the Ombudsman's services contacted the EMCDDA to enquire about the length of time it would take to assess the complainant's work and to make the payment. The EMCDDA informed the Ombudsman services on 17 October 2001 that it had contacted the complainant the same day and asked for an invoice. The delay in assessing the complainant's work originated in internal staff problems. Upon receipt of the invoice, the payment would be promptly made.

On 6 November 2001, the complainant informed the Ombudsman that the payment had been made and that the case had thereby been settled to her full satisfaction.

THE DECISION

1 The alleged failure to pay the complainant for work carried out without contract

1.1 The complainant alleged that despite repeated assurances, she was not paid for the work carried out without contract between January 1999 and August 1999. The EMCDDA should pay the verbally agreed fee (12,500.00 €) plus interests.

1.2 The EMCDDA considered that the conclusion of a formal contract had to be delayed because of a budgetary reserve made by the budgetary authority. The complainant would however be paid out of an "ex-post" financial commitment after the assessment of her work.

1.3 On 6 November 2001 the complainant informed the Ombudsman that the payment she requested had been made. It appears therefore that the EMCDDA has taken steps to settle the matter and has thereby satisfied the complainant.

2 The alleged failure to reply to letters requesting the payment

In view of the above, there is no need to further assess this issue.

3 Conclusion

On the basis of the Ombudsman's inquiries into the present complaint, it appears that the Commission has taken steps to settle the matter and has thereby satisfied the complainant. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case.

The Executive Director of the EMCDDA will also be informed of this decision.

Yours sincerely,

 

Jacob SÖDERMAN