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Decision in case 1035/2019/PB on alleged maladministration by the EU’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency in a project audit

Kedd | 04 május 2021

The case concerned alleged wrongdoing in the EACEA’s handling of certain matters related to a project audit. Specifically the complainant alleged retribution by the EACEA against a project partner which had in another context complained to the European Ombudsman. The complainant also contended that there was a lack of transparency and unequal treatment.

The Ombudsman found that the EACEA could have provided more information and better explanations to the complainant, and made a corresponding request to which the EACEA provided an adequate reply.

Regarding the alleged retribution, the Ombudsman pointed out that retribution by an EU institution against someone for having complained to the European Ombudsman is maladministration of a particularly serious nature. By implication, an allegation of such an act requires specific and convincing evidence to be put forward. In the present case, no such evidence was produced.

The Ombudsman also found that the allegation of unequal treatment could not be upheld.

The Ombudsman accordingly 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

Kedd | 13 október 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

Csütörtök | 08 október 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.