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Decision in own-initiative inquiry OI/7/2016/MDC on the decision of the European Union Delegation to Armenia not to conclude a Grant Contract

It-Tnejn | 19 Frar 2018

This own-initiative inquiry is based on a complaint made by an association of Armenian NGOs called the Citizens' Protection League (CPL). It concerns the decision of the European Union Delegation to Armenia not to conclude a Grant Contract with CPL following the Delegation’s discovery of an error in its initial assessment of the CPL application. CPL argued that the Delegation’s decision was not based on sound reasons.

In the course of the Ombudsman’s inquiry, the European Commission acknowledged that the action taken initially by the Delegation, once it realised that an error had occurred in the evaluation process, was not appropriate. However, the Commission also showed that the error detected required that the evaluation of CPL’s application be redone and, thus, that the Delegation was not in a position to conclude the Grant Contract with CPL.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 938/2016/JN on EPSO’s alleged failure to give candidates sufficient advance notice of the examination period for the computer‐based tests in competition AD/322/16

Il-Ħamis | 01 Ġunju 2017

The case concerned the European Personnel Selection Office’s (EPSO) alleged failure to give candidates sufficient advance notice of the examination period for the computer-based tests in a competition. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that there was no maladministration on the part of EPSO. In the particular case, the candidate was informed of the examination period 3 weeks in advance of its commencement. EPSO - following a previous Ombudsman decision - always contacts candidates at least 2 weeks before the beginning of the examination period.

In the course of this inquiry, EPSO informed the Ombudsman that it has a new practice whereby it publishes an advance indicative timeline for the competitions it organises. This is a development which the Ombudsman welcomes.

Decision in complaint 2048/2014/JAP against the European Commission’s handling of the audit of a research institute based in country Z

It-Tnejn | 22 Mejju 2017

The complainant, a research institute based in country Z, took part in an EU-funded project under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.

An audit revealed irregularities with the project, leading the Commission to seek the recovery of more than 300,000 Euro from the complainant, despite clarifications for the irregularities it had provided. The complainant was not satisfied with the outcome and lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that some of the auditors' findings were flawed. Since the most crucial issue was to determine the actual start date of the project, the Ombudsman proposed as a solution that the Commission consult an expert to verify the auditors' finding in that regard or order a ‘technical audit’, as provided for in the ‘Grant Agreement’. The Commission accepted the solution, provided the costs of contracting the expert would be borne jointly by both parties. The Ombudsman asked the Commission and the complainant to agree between themselves on selecting the expert to be appointed and closed the case.

Decision in case 136/2016/MDC on the European Commission's refusal to revise a final audit report concerning a project co-financed by the European Union

It-Tlieta | 13 Diċembru 2016

The case was brought by an association of legal experts from all over the European Union which carried out a project co-financed by the European Commission. It concerned the alleged unfair recovery, following an audit, of sums wrongly considered ineligible under the Grant Agreement.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and concluded that, following her intervention, a solution had been found. She therefore closed the case.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case 1083/2015/ANA concerning Eurojust's reimbursement of travel expenses to candidates invited to an interview

It-Tlieta | 12 Lulju 2016

The case concerned Eurojust's policy for the reimbursement of travel expenses of candidates invited to an interview.

The complainant turned to the Ombudsman alleging that Eurojust's reimbursement policy was unfair and discriminatory towards candidates residing outside the EU. In support of his allegation, the complainant noted there was a ceiling of 500 EUR for candidates residing outside the EU whilst, in some cases, a higher ceiling applied for travel from within the EU.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that, by increasing the reimbursement for candidates residing outside the EU to the highest ceiling applicable to candidates travelling inside the EU, Eurojust has taken appropriate action to settle the case.

Decision in case 2111/2014/ANA concerning the handling by the European Union Agency for Network & Information Security of a recruitment procedure

It-Tnejn | 11 Lulju 2016

The case concerned the manner in which the European Union Agency for Network & Information Security (ENISA) handled a recruitment procedure.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found no maladministration concerning the complainant's allegation that his application had been treated unfairly.

However, the Ombudsman identified certain shortcomings in ENISA's procedural handling of the case and has made suggestions to ENISA for improvement in the future.

Decision in case 1585/2014/JAS on the failure of the Office of the European Union Special Representative in Kosovo to keep internship candidates informed of steps in a recruitment procedure

It-Tnejn | 06 Ġunju 2016

The case concerned the alleged failure of the Office of the European Union Special Representative (EUSR office) in Kosovo to keep internship applicants informed of steps in a recruitment procedure. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue, setting out her view that "it is both courteous and service-minded to acknowledge receipt of applications and to inform candidates of the significant steps (such as their exclusion from a recruitment procedure) affecting their progress in a recruitment procedure." The EUSR office explained that it had very limited resources and therefore could inform only shortlisted persons of the outcome of the procedure. However, it stated that it was examining how to improve its communication with persons wishing to be interns, such as by informing all such persons of relevant steps in the procedure by putting relevant information on its website. The Ombudsman invited the EUSR office to report on the implementation of this solution.

Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 1708/2014/JVH against the European Commission concerning a decision to reject the complainant's application to work on an EU-funded project

Il-Ħamis | 19 Mejju 2016

In July 2014, the Commission rejected the complainant's application to work as an expert on a project in Indonesia because she had already committed to work on an EU-funded project in Liberia taking place at the same time. The complainant re-applied when the project in Liberia was delayed due to the Ebola crisis, pointing out that she was in fact available to work on the project in Indonesia.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission is entitled to request experts to be available to work exclusively on projects for specified periods. She noted that the complainant had declared that she would be available to work, on an exclusive basis, on two overlapping projects. The complainant did not explain this contradiction when she made her initial application. On the basis of the information provided, the Ombudsman considers that the Commission was correct in rejecting the complainant’s first application. With regard to the second application, the complainant did, in fact, state that the on-going Ebola crisis in Liberia meant that she was in fact free to work on the project in Indonesia. The Commission then re-examined her situation. In the Ombudsman's view, it made a fair and reasonable judgement when it concluded that the complainant was unable to guarantee her availability. Thus, the Ombudsman concludes, the Commission also did not err when it rejected her second application to work on the Indonesian project. However, it does leave questions as to how the Commission deals with the rights of experts caught up in crises such as the Ebola-outbreak.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration. She suggested to the Commission that, where a project has to be suspended, it should be prepared to release any affected expert from an exclusivity commitment.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case 697/2014/MG concerning the alleged duty of the European Commission to recover funds from an EU project partner

L-Erbgħa | 17 Frar 2016

The case concerned the Commission's decision not to accept certain costs declared by a partner to a project funded by the EU. The Commission's decision meant that its final payment to the consortium was reduced by the sum that this partner had received by way of pre-financing. The coordinator argued that it was the Commission's duty to recover the funds incorrectly paid to the partner in question.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission had handled the issue correctly as it could have initiated a recovery only had there been a debt towards the Union. The distribution of financing among project partners is a question of a different nature, in which the Commission has no obligation to intervene. The Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration by the Commission.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1731/2012/PL against the European Commission

L-Erbgħa | 02 Settembru 2015

The case concerned the Commission's decision to recover from a non-profit organisation the EU funds that it had invested in its social reserve between 2005 and 2009, considering them ineligible costs. As the reserve had been initially created with the Commission’s support and cooperation, the organisation complained to the European Ombudsman. Having inquired into the complaint, the Ombudsman made a proposal for a solution to the Commission inviting it to reconsider its recovery decision. In reply, the Commission put forward a number of measures it had taken in order to secure the organisation’s future. The Ombudsman considered these measures satisfactory and therefore decided to close the case.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 809/2012/JF against the European Commission

L-Erbgħa | 24 Ġunju 2015

The case concerned the overpayment of child allowances to a former EU official. The official suffered a stroke and, as a result, lost the ability to read and write, even in his mother tongue, and is unable to manage his affairs. The overpayment was the result of an error on the part of the Commission and occurred despite it having been provided with correct family information by the wife of the former official. After the Commission realised that it had overpaid the former official, it initiated recovery proceedings, arguing that its mistake was of such a nature that it could not have gone unnoticed.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the former official could not have discovered the Commission's mistake because of his health condition; nor could his wife be expected to have noticed that the payment had been made in error. The Ombudsman, therefore, tried to convince the Commission to stop the recovery, first by way of a friendly solution proposal, and later by making a draft recommendation. The Commission did not accept either of the Ombudsman's proposals and has now recovered the full amount of the overpayment.

It is an accepted fact that the former official could not have been aware of the overpayment on his pension. The Commission's decision to insist on a full recovery of the overpayment rests on its view that the wife of the former official ought to have the same understanding of the relevant EU Staff Regulations as if she herself were an EU official. In fact, she has never been an EU official. The Ombudsman believes that the Commission's legal reasoning is seriously flawed and she has found the Commission's actions in this case unfair, disproportionate and thus constitute maladministration.

The Ombudsman will notify the European Parliament of this finding which has adversely affected one of its former officials.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 298/2013/CK against the European Commission

L-Erbgħa | 24 Ġunju 2015

The case concerned a number of alleged irregularities regarding a selection process for a grant holder position at the Joint Research Centre (JRC). The Ombudsman inquired into the matter and found irregularities (i) in the establishment and application of the different selection criteria and (ii) in the tasks undertaken by the Recruitment and Training Unit. She made a recommendation to the JRC and asked it to acknowledge these irregularities, apologise for them and take measures to improve matters. In its reply, the JRC acknowledged that the selection procedure was tainted by a number of weaknesses relating to the selection criteria and apologised to the complainant. It also informed the Ombudsman that it has taken a number of initiatives to improve its selection procedures and avoid similar problems in the future. The Ombudsman concluded that the Commission had accepted her recommendation and closed the case.  

Deċiżjoni fil-każ OI/1/2013/FOR - Għeluq tal-investigazzjoni dwar ir-reklutaġġ tal-persunal fil-Kummissjoni Ewropea

L-Erbgħa | 27 Mejju 2015

L-investigazzjoni tikkonċerna l-għażla tal-persunal biex jaħdem mal-Kummissjoni fil-qasam tal-kooperazzjoni għall-iżvilupp. Speċifikament, kienet tikkonċerna r-rekwiżit li r-rekluti għandu jkollhom minimu ta' erba' snin esperjenza professjonali jaħdmu fuq proġett jew programm f'pajjiż li qiegħed jiżviluppa. L-Ombudsman investigat il-każ u sabet li l-kliem tal-Avviż ta' Kompetizzjoni abbozzat mill-Kummissjoni ma kienx ċar u kien ambigwu. Għaldaqstant hija għamlet abbozz ta' rakkomandazzjoni lill-Kummissjoni, li kien aċċettat.

Termination of Grant Agreement

It-Tnejn | 11 Mejju 2015