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Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 435/2004/GG against the European Commission


Strasbourg, 23 June 2004

Dear Mr R.,

On 17 February 2004, you made a complaint to the European Ombudsman concerning the European Commission’s alleged failure to pay certain sums.

On 20 February 2004, I forwarded the complaint to the President of the Commission.

On 24 February 2004, you submitted copies of the relevant invoices to me which I forwarded to the Commission on 10 March 2004.

The Commission sent its opinion on 7 May 2004 and I forwarded it to you on 14 May 2004 with an invitation to make observations, if you so wished, by 15 June 2004. No observations were received from you.

On the occasion of a telephone conversation on 21 June 2004, you informed my services that you considered the case as having been settled.

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


THE COMPLAINT

The complainant, the managing director of a small German company specialising in IT electronics, alleged that the Commission had failed to make any payment in respect of four invoices submitted to it on 17 March, 23 April, 16 September and 18 December 2003 in respect of work carried out for the Commission. According to the complainant, the total amount due to the complainant’s company was EUR 17 437.53.

According to the complainant, seven reminders (some of which were sent by registered mail) had failed to produce any reaction.

The complainant asked for the Ombudsman’s help in obtaining the payments that were due so as to avoid the need to dismiss staff and further damage to his company.

THE INQUIRY

The Commission's opinion

In its opinion, the Commission explained that due to technical changes to budgetary procedures resulting from the application of the new Financial Regulation, it had unfortunately not been possible to finalise the processing of the complainant’s invoices within the 60-day period that is foreseen for this purpose. Following the reorganisation of the department and the establishment of a financial unit, matters had now been reviewed. The four invoices totalling EUR 17 437.53 had been paid at the end of February 2004. In the Commission’s view, this meant that the complaint was no longer relevant.

The complainant's observations

No written observations were received from the complainant. On the occasion of a telephone conversation on 21 June 2004, the complainant informed the Ombudsman’s services that he considered the case as having been settled.

THE DECISION

1 Failure to pay outstanding invoices

1.1 The complainant, the managing director of a small German company specialising in IT electronics, alleged that the Commission had failed to make any payment on four invoices submitted to it on 17 March, 23 April, 16 September and 18 December 2003 in respect of work carried out for the Commission. According to the complainant, the total amount due to the complainant’s company was EUR 17 437.53.

1.2 In its opinion, the Commission pointed out that the delay had been caused by technical changes to budgetary procedures resulting from the application of the new Financial Regulation. The Commission noted that four invoices totalling EUR 17 437.53 had been paid at the end of February 2004.

1.3 On the occasion of a telephone conversation on 21 June 2004, the complainant informed the Ombudsman’s services that he considered the case as having been settled.

2 Conclusion

It appears from the Commission’s comments and the complainant's observations that the Commission has taken steps to settle the matter and has thereby satisfied the complainant. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case.

The President of the Commission will also be informed of this decision.

FURTHER REMARKS

In its opinion, the Commission referred to the fact that it had paid the amount that was due at the end of February 2004 and concluded that this meant that the complaint was no longer relevant. The Ombudsman notes that the first two of the relevant invoices had been presented to the Commission in March and April 2003, that is to say 11 and 10 months before payment was made by the Commission. It should further be considered that small and medium-sized companies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of delays in payment. In these conditions, the Ombudsman takes the view that the Commission may wish to consider the possibility of paying interest on account of late payment to the complainant.

Yours sincerely,

 

P. Nikiforos DIAMANDOUROS