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Showing 1 - 20 of 96 results

Decision on how the European Investment Bank (EIB) handled the move of a former Vice-President to an energy utility company that had received EIB loans (1016/2021/KR)

Wednesday | 27 July 2022

The case concerned the decision of the European Investment Bank to approve a request made by a former vice-president and member of its Management Committee (MC) (the ‘former VP’) to become a non-executive board member of a Spanish energy utility company, which received loans from the EIB.

The complainants, two Members of the European Parliament, raised concerns that the move gave rise to the risk of conflicts of interest. The EIB argued that the former VP had not been involved in the negotiation and implementation of the financing agreements between the EIB and the company.

The Ombudsman found that, in approving the move, the EIB did not properly manage the risk of conflicts of interest to which the former VP’s request arguably gave rise. However, given the EIB has, in the meantime, made improvements to the relevant ethics rules to address these matters, the Ombudsman determined that no further inquiries were justified.

Nonetheless, the Ombudsman made suggestions for improvement with a view to strengthening how the EIB assesses ‘revolving door’ moves by members of its MC to the private sector, and how it ensures compliance where its Ethics and Compliance Committee authorises a move but applies conditions on the individual and their activities.

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

Monday | 16 May 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.

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)

Tuesday | 01 February 2022

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.

Decision in case OI/3/2021/KR on how the European Defence Agency handled the applications of its former chief executive to take on senior positions at Airbus

Friday | 28 January 2022

The case concerned the decision of the European Defence Agency (EDA) to approve, with conditions, two intended jobs of its former chief executive, namely as head of public affairs for Airbus Spain and as strategic advisor for Airbus Defence and Space.

The Ombudsman found two instances of maladministration and made two recommendations and one suggestion to avoid similar issues arising in future.

First, the Ombudsman recommended that, 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.

Second, the Ombudsman recommended that 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 these criteria.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman suggested that the EDA should ensure that the specific form for those applying for authorisation for intended jobs is drafted in such a way that (former) staff members provide the relevant information to enable the EDA to perform a meaningful assessment from the outset.

The EDA agreed in essence to implement the recommendations on potentially forbidding staff from taking up certain positions and providing guidelines to staff on how it would apply such a measure. It indicated that it had started to adopt measures to implement the recommendations. At the same time, the EDA raised some questions about the Ombudsman's findings, which the Ombudsman has addressed in this decision.

The Ombudsman invites the EDA to inform her of any future actions it takes in relation to her recommendations, in particular with regards to the EDA’s criteria for forbidding intended jobs that give rise to clear conflicts of interest.