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Showing 1 - 20 of 194 results

Recommendation on how the European Defence Agency handled the applications of its former Chief Executive to take on senior positions at Airbus (OI/3/2021/KR)

Thursday | 15 July 2021

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry on her own initiative into the decision of the European Defence Authority (EDA) to allow its former Chief Executive to take up two senior positions with Airbus, an aerospace company.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry also looked into how the EDA dealt with the fact that the former Chief Executive took up his new positions before the EDA had authorised him to do so, which is a breach of the EDA’s Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman found that the conditions imposed on the former Chief Executive by the EDA in its authorising decision were insufficient when measured against the risks, and could not be monitored and enforced. There were also shortcomings in how the EDA assessed the risk of conflicts of interest.

The EDA should have instead applied stronger conditions and forbidden the former Chief Executive from taking up the position which gave rise to the greatest risk of conflict with the EDA’s legitimate interest. Not doing so amounted to maladministration by the EDA.

Based on these findings, the Ombudsman issued two recommendations:

(i) In future, the EDA should forbid its senior staff from taking up positions after their term of office where a clear conflict of interest arises with the legitimate interests of the EDA;

(ii) The EDA should set out the criteria for forbidding such moves, in order to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EDA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.

Recommendation in case 1777/2020/KR on how the European Commission handled concerns about the composition of the High Level Forum on the EU Capital Markets Union and alleged conflicts of interest of some of its members

Tuesday | 04 May 2021

The case concerned the High Level Forum on the proposed EU Capital Markets Union, a Commission expert group. The Forum gathered senior industry executives and top international experts and scholars to develop new ideas on related policies for the Commission.

The Forum had two types of members:

Type A - who were appointed in their personal capacity to act independently and in the public interest;

Type B - members who represented a common interest of different stakeholder organisations.

The complainant was concerned that a number of Type A members had links to financial institutions and could, as such, not be considered independent. After the Forum’s recommendations were made public, these members’ declarations of interests were no longer publicly available. In general, the complainant was concerned that the Forum’s composition was insufficiently broad and diverse.

The Ombudsman inquiry found two instances of maladministration:

1. Instead of following its own rules on conflicts of interest for Type A members, the Commission applied general measures to mitigate risks of conflicts of interest. These measures were insufficient.

2. Consequently, the split between the two types of Forum members deviated significantly from the balance that the Commission claimed it struck, and made public.

Based on her inquiry, the Ombudsman recommends that the Commission diligently apply its rules regarding conflicts of interest for individuals applying to be appointed as Type A members of expert groups. Other mitigating measures to address risks of conflicts of interest of Type A members may be taken in addition, but should not substitute the Commission’s rules to this end.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in joint inquiry 853/2020/KR on the European Commission’s decision to award a contract to BlackRock Investment Management to carry out a study on integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives into EU banking rules

Monday | 23 November 2020

The case concerns the European Commission's decision to award to BlackRock Investment Management a contract to carry out a study on integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives into EU banking rules. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry after receiving complaints from MEPs and a coalition of civil society organisations. The inquiry assessed how the Commission evaluated the company’s offer in the context of the call for tenders for carrying out the study.

The Ombudsman found that the company’s offer gave rise to concerns. First, if a bidder has a direct or indirect financial interest in developments in a market, because it invests in that market, or manages investments in that market, there is a clear risk that those interests may influence the outcome of its work in its own favour. This applies to the company in question. Second, because of the weighting applied by the Commission in its evaluation, the low price the company offered optimised its chances of securing the contract. Winning the contract may enable the company to gain insights and assert influence over a growing investment area of major and increasing relevance to its clients and therefore to the company itself.

The Ombudsman agrees that there are legitimate concerns around the risk of conflicts of interest that could negatively impact the performance of the contract as the company manifestly has an interest in the development of future EU regulation that will impact on itself and on its clients. She concluded that the Commission should have been more rigorous, and brought a wider perspective to bear, as it moved to verify, in compliance with the rules, that the company was not subject to a conflict of interest that may negatively affect the company’s ability to execute the contract. However, not doing so does not meet the threshold of maladministration, given the limitations of EU rules on awarding contracts in such situations on the Commission staff awarding the contract.

The Ombudsman suggests that the Commission updates its guidelines for public procurement procedures for policy-related service contracts, giving clarity to staff as to when to exclude bidders due to conflicts of interest that may negatively affect the performance of the contract. The Ombudsman also suggests the Commission reflect on whether a specific update to the applicable rules is also required to make them more relevant to the EU’s current policy ambitions. The EU is planning a period of unprecedented levels of spending and investment, which will necessarily involve significant linkages with the private sector.

This Decision will also be forwarded to EU legislators. It is a matter for the legislators to agree the legal underpinning of the ‘green transition’ including the appropriate manner in which its development and rollout is influenced.