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Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 823/2014/DK against the European Personnel Selection Office

The case concerned the complainant's request for access to the source texts of the translation tests in an EPSO open competition.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and asked EPSO to explain why it had departed from its earlier policy of providing candidates with the source texts in open competitions. In reply, EPSO stated that it had in the meantime reviewed its policy and decided to publish on its website the source texts used in open competitions. In accordance with its revised policy, EPSO sent to the complainant a copy of the source text in question.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the case on the basis that it had been settled to the satisfaction of the complainant.

The background to the complaint

1. In 2013, the complainant participated in Open Competition EPSO/AD/262/13 for Translators (AD5) with French as the main language. He passed the admission test and was therefore invited to do the translation tests[1].

2. In April 2014, EPSO informed him that he obtained 19 points in translation test A, which was below the passmark. Consequently, his translation test B was not marked and thus he was not invited to the next stage of the competition (the assessment-centre stage).

3. The complainant then submitted a request for review to EPSO. He argued that certain errors must have been made in the correction of his translation test A. He asked EPSO for access to his translation tests, the evaluation grid used to assess his performance, and the source texts.

4. In reply, EPSO provided the complainant with an uncorrected version of his translated text for translation tests A and B. However, it refused to provide him with the source texts, arguing that they are taken from a database, developed by EPSO, and are likely to be used in future competitions.

5. On 2 May 2014, EPSO further informed the complainant that it had carried out a technical verification of his test results, but found no error. It therefore confirmed that the results communicated to the complainant were indeed his results.

6. On 3 May 2014, the complainant complained to the European Ombudsman against EPSO's refusal to provide him with the requested documents. He argued that EPSO's refusal meant that he could not check what errors he made and assess his performance. The complainant argued that, despite the recommendation made by the Ombudsman in case 814/2012/TN, EPSO had refused to disclose the evaluation criteria used for the translation tests. In the complainant's view, this was in breach of EPSO's commitment to provide candidates with an assessment of their competences.

The inquiry

7. The Ombudsman decided to open an inquiry into the following allegation and claim:


EPSO wrongly refused to provide the complainant with the source texts of his translations.


EPSO should provide him with the source texts of his translations.

8. The Ombudsman also asked EPSO to explain why it had departed from its traditional policy of providing candidates with the source texts of translations in open competitions.

9. As regards the complainant's grievance that EPSO refused, despite the Ombudsman's recommendation made in case 814/2012/TN, to provide candidates with the evaluation criteria used for the translation tests, the Ombudsman informed the complainant that this aspect of his complaint concerned the same issue as in complaint 1136/2014/DK. In her inquiry into that complaint, the Ombudsman asked EPSO to comment on the possible relevance of the judgment of the Civil Service Tribunal in case De Mendoza Asensi v Commission[2].

10. In the course of the inquiry, the Ombudsman received the opinion of EPSO on the complaint and, subsequently, the observations of the complainant in response to EPSO's opinion.

Allegation of failure to provide the source texts of the complainant's translation tests

Arguments presented to the Ombudsman

11. In its opinion, EPSO stated that, in light of its ongoing commitment to maintaining and improving high standards of transparency, it had reviewed its policy concerning the disclosure of source texts used in competitions for translators. As a result, EPSO decided that all source texts in future open competitions for translators would subsequently be published on its website, thereby guaranteeing direct access to candidates. EPSO also stated that it had already sent to the complainant a copy of the requested source texts.

12. In his observations, the complainant acknowledged that he had indeed received the relevant source texts from EPSO. He stated that he also understood that EPSO cannot, in accordance with the recent case-law of the Union courts, disclose the evaluation criteria.

The Ombudsman's assessment

13. The Ombudsman applauds EPSO's willingness to review its policy on the disclosure of the source texts of translation tests in open competitions and welcomes the new policy whereby EPSO automatically publishes them on its website.

14. The Ombudsman therefore finds that EPSO has settled the matter to the complainant’s satisfaction.

15. As regards the disclosure of the evaluation criteria, the Ombudsman points out that, in the context of her inquiry into complaint 1136/2014/DK, EPSO stated that its own Development Programme already enhanced the transparency of its selection procedures by the introduction of competency and skills-based tests, and by the competency passport, which summarises the results of those skills being tested. It also stated that candidates who do not receive a competency passport because they are eliminated from the competition at an earlier stage can now request EPSO to provide them with comments. Moreover, EPSO is developing a new procedure that will allow candidates, who do not receive a competency passport, to obtain the selection board's reasoned decision, containing the board's comments on the quality of their translations. EPSO stated that this new procedure could be in place by 2016.

16. The Ombudsman therefore considers that this aspect requires no further inquiries.


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

EPSO has settled the matter to the complainant’s satisfaction.

The complainant and EPSO will be informed of this decision.

Emily O'Reilly

Strasbourg, 12/06/15


[1] The translation tests consisted of two parts: (i) a translation from language 2 (German or English) into French (translation test A); and (ii) a translation from language 3 (German or English but different to language 2) into French (translation test B). The pass mark for each translation test was 40 out of 80 points. Failure to reach the passmark in translation test A meant that translation test B was not even marked.

[2] Case F-127/11 of 12 February 2014 Gonzalo de Mendoza Asensi v European Commission, not yet published, paragraph 99. In its judgment, the Tribunal found that selection boards do not need to give candidates (i) the corrected version of their tests, (ii) reasons why their replies were erroneous, or (iii) the evaluation grids used for the written and oral tests, since these documents form part of the selection board's comparative assessments and are covered by the secrecy of the selection board proceedings.