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Ombudsman criticises Commission for not paying bills

The European Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman, has criticised the European Commission for refusing to pay three invoices for publications made on its behalf. This follows a complaint from a Belgian company that carried out the printing works via a Technical Assistance Office (TAO) of the Commission. The complainant turned to the Commission to settle the bills after the TAO went bankrupt.

The complainant claimed that the Commission should pay the bills of 48,000 EURO because the publications were approved by the Commission, produced on behalf of the Commission and delivered directly to the Commission. Moreover, the Commission did not take any measure even though it had been aware for a long time about the irregularities within the TAO.

The Commission stated that it had no contractual relation with the complainant and that it could not be held responsible. Disputing this argument, the Ombudsman said, "the situation in which the complainant finds itself now is a consequence of the Commission's failure to act promptly ...... to deal with the irregularities and fraudulent practices that it knew existed". The Ombudsman referred to the Committee of Independent Experts' First Report on Allegations regarding Fraud, Mismanagement and Nepotism in the European Commission.

The Ombudsman found that the TAO was acting completely on behalf of the Commission, which was the ordering body and the de facto recipient of the publications. As there might be unjust enrichment of the Commission, the Ombudsman proposed a friendly solution but the Commission rejected it.


The Ombudsman's Decision can be found on his website at:


For further information, please call Mr Olivier Verheecke, Principal Legal Officer; tel: 00 32 2 284 2003.

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For further information about the Ombudsman's media activities, please contact: Ms Honor Mahony, Acting Head of communication, Tel. +32 (0)2 283 47 33.