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Failure to follow the law [Article 4 ECGAB]

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Decision in case 2218/2019/MDC on the Research Executive Agency’s decision to consider ineligible certain costs claimed by a partner in an EU-funded project on the interoperability of unmanned vehicles (DARIUS)

Wednesday | 16 September 2020

The case concerned the decision of the Research Executive Agency (REA) to consider ineligible certain costs claimed in the context of a project that was co-funded by the EU: the DARIUS project on the interoperability of unmanned vehicles in search and rescue operations.

The complainant considered that the REA had acted in a contradictory and inconsistent manner, and should not have deemed the costs ineligible. It raised various concerns about the findings of the audit on which that decision was based .

The Ombudsman found that the REA acted reasonably and in line with the grant agreement. She therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1233/2019/MMO on how the European Commission ensures that Member State governments spend European Structural and Investment Funds in line with the obligations stemming from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Thursday | 30 July 2020

The case concerned the use of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI funds) for the construction of institutional care facilities for persons with disabilities in Hungary and Portugal. The complainant considered that the European Commission should have taken action on these projects, as it believed them to be at odds with the EU’s obligations to ensure people with disabilities are supported to live independently and to be included in the community.

The Ombudsman already had occasion, in the course of an earlier inquiry, to set out her views on the use of ESI funds on institutions rather than to promote independent living. The Ombudsman was encouraged by the Commission’s follow-up to her suggestions in that case, received in the course of this inquiry, and in particular the greater ambition it is showing for the 2021-27 programming period.

In this case, the Ombudsman finds that, as regards the first phase of the ‘deinstitutionalisation’ process in Hungary, the Commission has not acted in a sufficiently timely manner. Due to the lessons learnt in that phase, however, the Commission has shown greater caution as regards the use of ESI funds to continue the deinstitutionalisation process in that Member State. In the case of Portugal, the Ombudsman trusts that the Commission will act upon the findings and recommendations of the UN and the upcoming expert report in an effective manner.

On this basis, the Ombudsman closes the inquiry. She will now examine with the members of the European Network of Ombudsmen the need for further work in this area, in particular in light of the problems encountered in institutional care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also sets out three suggestions for improvement to address the issues identified in this case.