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Decision on the European Personnel Selection Office’s (EPSO) decision not to allow a candidate in COVID-19 quarantine to reschedule a test (case 2223/2021/ABZ)

Wednesday | 18 January 2023

The case concerned the decision of the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) not to allow a candidate, who was placed in COVID-19 quarantine, to reschedule her test in the context of a selection procedure for contract agent staff (CAST Permanent selection procedure).

The Ombudsman found that EPSO provided reasonable explanations as to why it was not able to provide an alternative testing date to the complainant. On that basis, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding that there was no maladministration by EPSO.

Decision on how the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) carried out two staff selection procedures in the field of cybersecurity (cases 1159/2021/VB and 1224/2021/VB)

Friday | 16 December 2022

The case concerned the way in which the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) carried out two selection procedures to recruit experts in the field of cybersecurity who would fit one or more of three profiles. The complainant took part in both procedures and raised concerns about the scoring methodology applied by ENISA and the inconsistency of the scores he received in one procedure.

In the course of the inquiry, the Ombudsman inquiry team noted that the scoring methodology used in both procedures put candidates applying for one or two profiles only at a disadvantage in comparison to those who applied for all three profiles. This was not clear in the vacancy notices. It also requested explanations to ENISA on the inconsistencies in the complainant’s scores.

ENISA acknowledged the inconsistencies in the scores received by the complainant and offered to invite him to the next stage of both selection procedures.

The Ombudsman found that, as ENISA has taken appropriate steps to remedy the issues raised by the complainant, no further inquiries are justified in this case and closed the inquiry.

Decision on the European Data Protection Supervisor's (EDPS) refusal to give full public access to documents concerning the drafting of its implementing provisions on promotion (1995/2022/OAM)

Friday | 16 December 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to documents related to the drafting of the European Data Protection Supervisor's (EDPS) implementing provisions on staff promotion. The EDPS gave partial access to some documents, but refused to disclose parts of three documents, which it considered to be covered by the exception for the protection of legal advice. The complainant contested the EDPS’s position. He further claimed that the EDPS did not identify all documents falling within the scope of his request.

The Ombudsman inquiry team inspected the relevant documents. During the inquiry, the EDPS became aware of an error in the redaction of one document partially disclosed at initial stage. It remedied that error and granted the complainant wider partial access to the document in question.

As regards the other documents, the Ombudsman found that the EDPS’s decision to refuse full access was not unreasonable. Given that the documents at issue related to an internal administrative procedure, she did not identify an overriding public interest in disclosure. The Ombudsman also considered that the EDPS properly identified all the documents falling within the scope of the request.

In view of this, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.

Decision on how the European Parliament assessed the qualifications and the professional experience of a candidate in a selection procedure for intercultural and language professionals (case 2133/2021/KT)

Thursday | 15 December 2022

The case concerned a selection procedure organised by the European Parliament to recruit ‘intercultural and language professionals’. The complainant considered that the score he received in the ‘talent evaluator’ stage of the procedure, which aimed to evaluate candidates’ qualifications and professional experience, did not represent an accurate assessment of his relevant professional experience and his studies in the field.

The Ombudsman found no manifest error in how the selection board assessed the complainant’s talent evaluator and closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration. She identified some elements for Parliament to consider in future procedures and drew Parliament’s attention to them.

Decision on how the European Parliament communicated with an applicant for a traineeship (case 1266/2022/LM)

Thursday | 15 December 2022

The case concerned how the European Parliament communicated with an individual regarding his application for a traineeship. The complainant contended that he was shortlisted, interviewed and then rejected before the period for shortlisting candidates had formally started. He argued that this was in breach of the selection procedure rules.

The Ombudsman found that the Parliament had initially miscommunicated with the complainant, but that it promptly remedied this. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration but encouraged the Parliament to improve the information provided on the dedicated webpage for the traineeship in question, notably about the possibility to interview candidates.

Decision on how the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) carried out a situational competency based interview in a staff selection procedure (case 299/2022/EIS)

Tuesday | 13 December 2022

The case concerned how the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) conducted a ‘situational competency based’ interview in the context of a procedure for the recruitment of EU civil servants (‘administrators’). The complainant considered that he had not reached the minimum score required to be shortlisted because the interviewer rejected a clarifying question he had posed at the beginning of the interview. He was dissatisfied with how EPSO addressed his concerns.

The Ombudsman considered adequate the clarifications provided by EPSO on how the complainant’s interview was conducted. There was nothing to suggest a manifest error in how EPSO had carried out and assessed the interview. The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration. However, she made a suggestion for improvement to EPSO for future similar selection procedures, namely that it communicate more clearly to candidates the types of questions allowed or not allowed during the interviews.

Decision on the decision by the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT) to reject a bid in a call for tenders for editing services (case 2109/2021/LM)

Friday | 09 December 2022

The case concerned a procurement procedure for “light post editing services” organised by the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT) and divided in different lots.

The complainant submitted a tender for one of the lots but the CdT rejected her offer, as it claimed that the complainant had not submitted documentary evidence for her professional experience. However, the complainant claimed that, according to the call for tenders, tenderers who had submitted tenders in previous procedures were not required to resubmit documentary evidence.

The Ombudsman found that the CdT provided contradictory information to tenderers as to whether they should resubmit supporting documents already provided in another procurement procedure. She therefore proposed as a solution that the CdT not renew the current framework contract for the specific lot at issue and, instead, carry out a new procurement procedure, providing greater clarity as to what documents tenderers are expected to submit.

The CdT informed the Ombudsman that it did not renew the framework contracts for that lot. The CdT added that it has revised the wording of the documentation used in procurement procedures to provide greater clarity for tenderers. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding that the solution proposal had been accepted.

Decision on how the European Commission manages ‘revolving door’ moves of its staff members (OI/1/2021/KR)

Tuesday | 06 December 2022

As the EU is increasingly entrusted with greater powers in areas from defence to healthcare, public trust in the administration is essential. Any perception that public servants pursue private interests that conflict with their public work is therefore highly damaging. The European Ombudsman has long identified the ‘revolving doors’ phenomenon as one that can damage public trust if not adequately managed. Even a small number of high profile moves can generate significant public disquiet and cause reputational damage. This strategic inquiry looked at 100 European Commission ‘revolving door’ files to identify areas for improvement and to guide the rest of the EU administration for the future.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry found genuine improvements since she had last examined the issue, including guidance on how to conduct more rigorous examinations of each move.

That said, in some instances, the Commission approved requests from former senior staff members to take up activities, despite reservations as to whether the conditions imposed on the moves would mitigate the potential risks (such as conflicts of interest and access to knowledge or contacts within the administration). The Ombudsman believes that such moves should be authorised only where the activity can be made subject to restrictions that adequately mitigate the risks and which can credibly be monitored and enforced.

Where such restrictions and enforcement are not possible, the Commission should temporarily forbid former staff members from taking up the intended jobs. Not doing so risks underestimating the corrosive effects over time of having such officials bring their knowledge and networks to related areas in the private sector, and the related reputational damage to the EU.

When approving an activity with mitigating measures, the Commission should explore the full range of measures available. For instance, the Commission could make its approval of a new job conditional upon the staff member obtaining a commitment from the new employer that the restrictions imposed by the Commission are made public on the new employer’s website. As a minimum, the Commission should require the (former) staff member to submit evidence that the restrictions imposed were shared with the new employer.

The difficulties encountered by the Commission in monitoring compliance led the Ombudsman to reiterate her suggestion that the Commission makes public in a more timely way information on all post-service activities of senior former staff members that it assesses. This would improve public scrutiny of these decisions, which is essential for monitoring purposes.

Decision on incorrect information about a candidate’s status in the contract agents selection database (CAST) managed by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) (case 2090/2021/VB)

Friday | 25 November 2022

The case concerned the status of an individual on the Contract Agent Selection Tool database (CAST database), from which EU institutions, bodies, offices or agencies may recruit contract agent staff. The complainant had passed the selection tests and was included in the database, which is administered by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO), but she was mistakenly indicated as ‘recruited’ for a period of more than four years.

The Ombudsman found that the complainant may have lost out on the opportunity to be recruited by EU institutions using the CAST database during that period. The Ombudsman proposed to EPSO, as a solution, that it extend the validity of the complainant’s status in the database for the same amount of time as the time during which she had been mistakenly marked as recruited. EPSO accepted the proposal.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with the conclusion that EPSO had settled the issue. To prevent such issues occurring in the future, she suggested that EPSO take action to ensure that, every time a candidate’s status in the CAST database is changed, they receive an automatic email informing them of the change.

Decision on alleged irregularities in how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) carried out a staff selection procedure for recruiting a ‘command and control support officer’ (case 882/2021/PL)

Tuesday | 22 November 2022

The complainant took issue with how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) carried out a staff selection procedure for the recruitment of a ‘command and control support officer’. In particular, he was concerned that the selection criteria had been set to favour the recruitment ofa specific candidate. The complainant also disagreed with the use of the ‘reserve list’ of successful candidates from the selection procedure to recruit a service desk manager, arguing that this did not correspond to the expertise that the selection procedure had evaluated.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into these concerns and inspected Frontex’s internal documents. The Ombudsman found that how Frontex carried out the selection procedure ensured equal treatment of candidates. The Ombudsman also found that it was reasonable to recruit a service desk manager from the reserve list in question. The Ombudsman therefore closed the case with a finding of no maladministration.