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Failure to follow the law [Article 4 ECGAB]

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Decision in case 1235/2019/JF on the European Commission’s handling of concerns about an EU co-funded project in Malawi

Thursday | 26 March 2020

The case was about a project developed by a local organisation and co-financed by the EU in Africa.

The complainant raised concerns with the Commission about the local organisation. The Commission then contracted an auditor, who made a number of recommendations to improve the organisation’s governance. The complainant then turned to the Ombudsman alleging that the Commission had failed to ensure that the organisation implemented the auditor’s recommendations.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission had in fact followed up on how the organisation implemented the recommendations and that there was no maladministration. She invited the Commission to update the complainant on the implementation of the recommendations.

Decision in case 699/2019/AMF on how the EU Delegation to Algeria handled the contract termination of an expert in an EU-funded project

Wednesday | 25 March 2020

The complainant worked as an expert for an external contractor of the EU Delegation to Algeria. The purpose of the contract was to provide technical assistance to the Algerian authorities in the context of an EU funded programme in the transport area. The Delegation asked that the complainant be replaced, with the result that the external contractor terminated his contract on the same day. The complainant turned to the Ombudsman arguing that the Delegation had not heard him before requesting his replacement.

While there may have been no legal obligation for the Delegation to hear the complainant, the Ombudsman has consistently taken the view that individuals whom the institutions ask to be replaced should be heard before they are dismissed. In this case, the Delegation did not do enough to reassure itself, after it had made its request, that the complainant had been heard. While this is regrettable, the Ombudsman notes that the complainant had been made aware of the issues, during the project. The Ombudsman further notes improvements that have been introduced in the meantime that should avoid similar incidents in the future. On this basis, she closes the case.

Decision in the joint inquiry in cases 1500/2019/TM and 1600/2019/TM concerning Frontex’s practice to require an official identification document from applicants for public access to its documents

Tuesday | 17 March 2020

The case concerned the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s (Frontex) practice to ask applicants for public access to documents for a copy of an official identification document or for their electronic signature.

The complainants considered that this practice does not ensure the easiest public access possible in a manner consistent with EU good administrative practice.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the requirements imposed by Frontex were justified and were not applied in a disproportionate manner.

Decision in case 190/2020/DDJ on how the European Personnel Selection Office assessed the complainant’s talent screener in a selection procedure for the recruitment of EU civil servants in scientific research

Monday | 24 February 2020

The case concerned the European Personnel Selection Office’s (EPSO) decision not to admit the complainant to the next stage of a selection procedure for the recruitment of EU civil servants in scientific research. It did so because the complainant had not scored sufficient points at the talent screener stage.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the manner in which EPSO assessed the complainant’s reply to a question in her talent screener about her qualifications. The Ombudsman found nothing to suggest a manifest error in how the selection board assessed the complainant’s reply to this question. The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 473/2019/PB on the European Commission’s failure to produce a report on a possible extension of the number of years that performers’ rights are protected in the audiovisual sector

Thursday | 30 January 2020

The case concerned the fact that the European Commission had, for over seven years, failed to produce a report on a possible extension of the term of protection for performers’ rights under the EU’s rules on copyright protection (specifically Directive 2011/77/EU amending Directive 2006/116/EC).

The Ombudsman found that this was maladministration. She emphasised that failing to draw up such reports can impair the capacity of citizens and stakeholders to participate in EU policy and law-making. 

The Ombudsman noted that the Commission had in the meantime begun to prepare the report. She suggested that the Commission tell the public when it will be ready.