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Decision in case 964/2020/JN on how the European Commission evaluated a tender in a public procurement procedure for the translation of a report on the judicial reform in Cyprus

Tuesday | 11 May 2021

The case concerned the European Commission´s decision to reject a tender in a public procurement procedure for the translation of a report on the judicial reform in Cyprus. The complainant considered that the Commission had been wrong in rejecting his tender because it considered he did not meet the specifications for the required experience. In the complainant’s view, the Commission should have asked him for clarifications.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission acted reasonably, and closed the inquiry finding no maladministration. She trusts that, going forward, the Commission will ensure that unsuccessful tenderers receive an adequate explanation of the reasons why their tender has been rejected, without having to ask for clarification.

Decision in case 1944/2020/TE on how the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency set up the EU Database for Information on Substances of Concern In Articles (SCIP database)

Thursday | 03 December 2020

The case concerned the establishment of a new EU database for information on Substances of Concern In Articles (SCIP database) under the EU legislation on waste. The complainant, a European trade association, considered that the set of mandatory information to be provided by suppliers of articles to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) goes beyond what is required in the EU legislation on chemicals.

The complaint concerns the interpretation of several provisions in EU legislation on waste and chemicals. In the Ombudsman’s view, the Commission and ECHA have adopted a reasonable interpretation of the relevant provisions. While the complainant’s interpretation is different, this is not sufficient to suggest that the interpretation of the Commission and ECHA is wrong. It is for a Court to determine the correct interpretation in the event of a dispute. The Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration and closed the case.

Decision in case 784/2019/JN on the European Commission´s decision to reject certain costs in the context of an EU-funded project supporting education in Somalia

Tuesday | 13 October 2020

The case concerned the European Commission´s decision to reject almost EUR 50 000 in the context of an EU-funded project supporting education in Somalia.

The Ombudsman made the preliminary finding that the Commission´s decision was not fair. She made a corresponding proposal for a solution.

The Commission disagreed with the Ombudsman´s proposal and provided additional explanations for its position. The grant agreement, it said, contains a list of non-eligible costs including salary costs of the personnel of national administrations, at issue here. Declaring the costs eligible, although they are clearly ineligible, could create a precedent that the rules in question can be circumvented. In light of these and further explanations, the Ombudsman reached the conclusion that no further inquiries were justified. The grant agreement, read as a whole, supports the Commission´s position sufficiently.

However, the Ombudsman considered it regrettable that an organisation that successfully carried out a project in good faith and incurred the costs in question, should find itself in this situation. She suggested that the Commission consider how it could improve the clarity of the information in its ‘grant agreements’ with entities selected to carry out EU-funded projects, to avoid similar cases arising in the future.

Decision in case 842/2020/KR on the European Commission’s decision to suspend a company that offers courses on the Erasmus+ ‘School Education Gateway’ platform

Thursday | 08 October 2020

The case concerned the ‘School Education Gateway’, an online platform for school education that is funded by Erasmus+, the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. The complainant is the owner and manager of an education and training provider, which offered courses on the platform.  

The European Commission, which is responsible for the programme, suspended the complainant’s company after it had established that the complainant’s company had repeatedly violated the platform’s terms and conditions.

The Ombudsman inquired into the matter and found that the Commission’s actions were reasonable and proportionate. She therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1708/2019/NH on the EU Publications Office refusing to publish a notice for tender in the Official Journal of the European Union

Friday | 08 May 2020

The case concerned the refusal by the EU Publications Office to publish a contract notice in the Official Journal of the EU because it contained text in more than one language. The complainant, who works for a Belgian cultural foundation, contended that the Publications Office had failed to give the legal basis for its refusal.

In the course of the Ombudsman inquiry, the Publications Office gave the legal basis for refusing to publish the complainant’s notice. It also explained how it handles issues of this kind.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with the finding that the Publications Office had settled the aspect of the complaint that concerned the legal basis for the refusal to publish the contract notice. The Ombudsman further found that the Office’s explanations as to how it handles issues of this nature do not reveal any maladministration. The Ombudsman made a suggestion for improvement to ensure that language requirements are clearly explained on the Publication Office’s website.

Decision in case 2011/2019/LM on how the European Commission dealt with the fact that the wrong deadline was given for traineeship applicants to upload supporting documents

Wednesday | 19 February 2020

The complainant applied for a traineeship at the European Commission and was asked to submit supporting documents. When she checked her online application account, she noticed that the deadline set for doing so had already expired by six months. When she logged in again, one week later, she learned that the actual deadline had expired earlier that day. Dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision to exclude her from the selection procedure, she turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman finds it regrettable that the Commission initially gave an incorrect deadline in the application accounts. While the Commission corrected the error within 15 minutes, it was alerted to the fact that some candidates had seen it. As such, it should have sent a notification to all candidates about the correct deadline.

At the same time, the complainant herself was required to check her application account at least twice a week and, in this case, failed to do so. It was therefore reasonable for the Commission not to accept her supporting documents. The Ombudsman closes the case, welcoming the steps the Commission has taken to avoid similar mistakes happening in the future.