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Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the own-initiative inquiry OI/15/2014/PMC into the way in which the European External Action Service (EEAS) handles allegations of serious irregularities involving the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo

Thursday | 04 December 2014

After the Ombudsman's attention had been drawn to certain alleged serious irregularities affecting the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in Kosovo by an EULEX Prosecutor as well as by the media, the Ombudsman decided to open an own-initiative inquiry in order to assess whether the European External Action Service (EEAS) and EULEX had properly investigated or are properly investigating these allegations.

In order to ascertain what action needed to be taken by her, the Ombudsman inspected the EEAS's/EULEX's file concerning the matter. The inspection showed that EULEX had conducted a preliminary internal investigation and had recruited an external prosecutor to investigate the irregularities. In addition, the EEAS had appointed an experienced expert to review EULEX's mandate from a systemic point of view, with a particular focus on the allegations raised.

The Ombudsman noted that EULEX did not follow its standard procedure for investigating such allegations. She also found that the way in which the external prosecutor was recruited needed to be examined. However, given that the expert recently appointed by the EU High Representative has made it clear that these issues will form part of the review to be carried out by him, the Ombudsman took the view that there was no need for further action on her part at present.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1092/2012/OV against the European Parliament

Wednesday | 27 August 2014

The complainant, who is French-Italian bilingual asked Parliament to allow him to take written tests in an internal competition in Italian despite the fact that, according to the competition notice, he should take tests in French, his main language registered as such in Parliament’s relevant database.  Parliament refused that request arguing that it was based solely on personal grounds of expediency. The Ombudsman found no maladministration by Parliament, since its refusal was based on clear and acceptable reasons.  She made two further remarks that Parliament could (i) make it possible for bilingual staff to declare both their languages in annual staff reports as their main languages and (ii) add to the annual staff reports, section "knowledge of languages", a note that the data in this section will serve for all HR purposes in the following year.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1076/2013/EIS against the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO)

Monday | 23 June 2014

The case concerned the allegedly discriminatory character of a selection criterion regarding professional experience acquired or studies pursued in a foreign country indicated in a call for expressions of interest issued by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO).

The complainant, an Italian citizen, had been working for the EU in Ispra, Italy, for three years. He took part in a selection procedure organised by EPSO. One of the questions included in the 'Talent Screener' section of the application form queried whether the candidate had "[p]rofessional experience (or [had pursued] studies) in a foreign country (not your country of origin) of longer than six consecutive months". Candidates were invited to reply to that question in the affirmative or in the negative. Given that the complainant had acquired his relevant experience by working for the EU in his country of origin, he replied to the question in the negative. This led EPSO to eliminate him from the next stage of the procedure. The complainant turned to the European Ombudsman and alleged that the question was discriminatory, since it did not take into account specific circumstances.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that EPSO had not made any manifest error of assessment, given that the requirement of experience gained in a foreign country was clearly established by the Call for expressions of interest and EPSO's position was also in line with the relevant case-law. The Ombudsman thus closed the case with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1651/2012/(ER)PMC against the European Commission

Friday | 13 June 2014

The complainant is an Italian association which carried out a project in Armenia, financed through a grant by the EU Delegation to that country. In late 2009, after the project had been completed, the complainant requested the EU Delegation in Armenia to make the final payment. However, the Delegation requested some clarifications from the complainant and subsequently, due to the complexity of the project and suspected irregularities, asked for an audit. The complainant turned to the European Ombudsman in August 2012, complaining that it took the Delegation nearly two years to make the final payment after the complainant submitted its payment request. The complainant claimed that the Delegation should reimburse it the costs it had incurred while awaiting the outstanding payment.

The Ombudsman was not convinced that the Delegation's decision to ask for further information and, subsequently, to commission an audit, was unreasonable. While it is true that the audit report concluded that the eligible costs incurred amounted to 99.77% of the declared costs, the report also identified some shortcomings in the implementation of the project. Since there was nothing to suggest an excessive delay on the Delegation's part, she considered the complainant's allegation to be unfounded. Consequently, the Ombudsman closed the case with a finding of no maladministration. As regards certain procedural issues raised by the complainant, the Ombudsman found no grounds for further inquiries.

Unfair exclusion from competition

Wednesday | 26 December 2012

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 2573/2007/VIK against the European Commission

Thursday | 13 December 2012

The present complaint was submitted by a company active in the IT field. The Commission launched a call for tenders for the creation of a "Website on Integration". The complainant took part in this procurement procedure. However, its bid was rejected by the evaluation commitee on the ground that it had failed to meet the qualitative award criteria. In a letter sent on 8 December 2006, the complainant contested this decision and argued that it was unfair, arbitrary, and tainted with manifest errors of assessment. The complainant also argued that the selected tenderer had submitted two alternative proposals in its bid. In its view, one of these alternatives constituted a 'variant', whereas variants were clearly forbidden under the relevant tender specifications.

In its complaint to the Ombudsman, the complainant (i) alleged that the evaluation committee had wrongly accepted a bid with variants, and (ii) disagreed with the appraisal of its own bid.

As regards point (i), the Ombudsman considered that one of the alternatives proposed by the winning tender was indeed a "variant". The Ombudsman then examined the question of whether, having concluded that one of the two proposals (the variant) was inadmissible, the Commission could examine the remaining proposal. In his decision, the Ombudsman pointed out that he was not aware of any rule which specifically obliges the administration, in situations such as the present one, to disregard the entire tender due to the fact that a variant was proposed. He further noted that the tender documentation did not indicate that if a variant were to be submitted together with a valid offer, the entire offer would have to be rejected. In view of the above, the Ombudsman concluded that there appeared to be no infringement of the public procurement legislation in this regard.

As for the appraisal of the complainant's bid (point (ii) above), the Ombudsman considered that the Commission complied with its duty to state reasons and with the formal requirements concerning the right of the unsuccessful tenderer to receive information. The Ombudsman pointed out, however, that in its letter of 8 December 2006, the complainant had contested the reasoning provided by the evaluation committee, and that the Commission refrained from addressing the specific arguments put forward, even though the Ombudsman had, on several occasions during his inquiry, asked it to do so, for reasons of good administration. Given that the Commission failed to provide an adequate reply to these requests, the Ombudsman made a draft recommendation calling on the Commission to address the complainant's arguments, so as to enable him to complete his assessment.

In response to his draft recommendation, the Commission clarified in sufficient detail the relevant issues raised by the complainant. The Ombudsman thus closed the case, concluding that the Commission had accepted his draft recommendation and taken satisfactory steps to implement it.

In light of the above, the Ombudsman found no instance of maladministration in the present case.