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Decision in case 699/2019/AMF on how the EU Delegation to Algeria handled the contract termination of an expert in an EU-funded project

Miércoles | 25 marzo 2020

The complainant worked as an expert for an external contractor of the EU Delegation to Algeria. The purpose of the contract was to provide technical assistance to the Algerian authorities in the context of an EU funded programme in the transport area. The Delegation asked that the complainant be replaced, with the result that the external contractor terminated his contract on the same day. The complainant turned to the Ombudsman arguing that the Delegation had not heard him before requesting his replacement.

While there may have been no legal obligation for the Delegation to hear the complainant, the Ombudsman has consistently taken the view that individuals whom the institutions ask to be replaced should be heard before they are dismissed. In this case, the Delegation did not do enough to reassure itself, after it had made its request, that the complainant had been heard. While this is regrettable, the Ombudsman notes that the complainant had been made aware of the issues, during the project. The Ombudsman further notes improvements that have been introduced in the meantime that should avoid similar incidents in the future. On this basis, she closes the case.

Decision in case 1399/2019/FP on how the European Parliament handled a request for public access to documents on the use of EU funds in Albania

Martes | 12 noviembre 2019

The case concerned a request to the European Parliament for public access to documents underlying a mission report of the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control.

The Parliament was unable to identify any document as falling within the scope of the complainant’s request.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found the Parliament’s position to be reasonable. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1392/2019/FP on the European Commission’s refusal to grant full access to a report on property rights in Albania

Lunes | 21 octubre 2019

The case concerned the Commission’s refusal to grant full public access to a EURALIUS report on the “protection of property in Albania”. After consultation with EURALIUS on the access to document request, the Commission granted partial access and refused access to the remaining parts based on the need to protect international relations and the need to protect legal advice.

The Ombudsman found the Commission’s position to be reasonable. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 218/2018/JF on the European Commission’s refusal to pay a higher daily fee to an expert in a twinning project

Viernes | 24 mayo 2019

The case concerned an error contained in a proposal for a twinning project, submitted by two Member States to the EU Delegation to the Republic of Azerbaijan. The error related to the fees of a senior expert involved in the project. Whilst the expert was entitled to a fee of EUR 1 750, she was paid only EUR 1 250 after completing the work. Once alerted, the EU Delegation refused to cover the remaining EUR 500 arguing that the error was of the Member States’ responsibility. The expert then complained to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman pointed out that the complainant had not been paid the correct fee solely because of the error. She took the view that it would have been reasonable for the EU Delegation simply to acknowledge that an error had been made and to release the funds necessary to pay the correct fee. Whilst acknowledging the Commission’s duty to protect the financial interests of the EU, the Ombudsman took the view that that duty should not be interpreted as preventing the Commission from correcting a manifest error committed to the detriment of an individual. She, therefore, made a proposal for a solution to the Commission that it pay the additional EUR 500.

The Commission accepted the proposal and the complainant is satisfied to have received the correct fee. The Ombudsman thereby closes the case.

Decision in case OI/14/2017/MDC on how the European Commission defined the term ‘civil society organisation’ in a call for proposals

Martes | 11 diciembre 2018

The case concerned the European Commission’s refusal to recognise a public university as a ‘civil society organisation’ (CSO) in the context of a call for proposals. The Commission considered that the university in question was a state actor. It rejected the proposal because CSOs had to be non-state actors. The complainant argued that the commonly understood definition of the term CSO includes universities and that the Commission’s rejection of its application was unfair.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the issue and found that, although the Commission’s rejection letter was unclear, the Commission had determined the university’s eligibility in line with the applicable rules. The Ombudsman found no maladministration by the Commission.

The Ombudsman was, however, pleased to note that the Commission acknowledged that in future calls, it should ensure greater clarity with regard to the definition used for ‘civil society organisations’.

Decision in case 86/2017/CEC on how the European Commission treated an external expert who was involved in evaluating the EU Partnership for Peace Programme

Martes | 13 noviembre 2018

The case concerned how the European Commission treated the complainant in the context of his work under the EU Partnership for Peace Programme (EUPfP), a programme aimed at promoting peace in the Middle East. The complainant was the team leader of a group of three experts tasked with evaluating the programme.

The complainant turned to the Ombudsman with a range of allegations against the Commission, the most important of which was that the Commission had instigated his dismissal.

The Ombudsman inquired into the complaint. As regards the complainant’s dismissal, the Ombudsman noted that his employer had stated that the complainant had interfered in its client relationship without its consent, had damaged its reputation, and was not adhering to his contractual obligations. The inquiry did not identify any maladministration on the part of the Commission on this or on any of the other points raised by the complainant.

The Ombudsman thus closed the inquiry.