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Decision in case 1512/2015/PD on the European Commission’s recovery of funds relating to several EU-funded projects

It-Tlieta | 03 April 2018

The case concerned the European Commission’s decision to recover sums paid out as grants under various EU-funded projects. The decision was taken following audits carried out by an auditor on behalf of the Commission. The complainant disagreed with the audit findings. Amongst other things, the complainant wanted the audits to be reviewed by the national chamber of auditors in its Member State. The Commission did not consider this necessary.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that there was no maladministration by the Commission.

Decision in case 947/2016/JN on the Commission’s handling of the complainant’s Facebook enquiry

It-Tnejn | 24 Lulju 2017

This case arose from the failure of the European Commission Representation in Croatia to reply to an information request made on Facebook and the fact that it blocked the complainant on its Facebook page. The complainant had asked if the Head of Representation in Croatia was a former member of the communist party of Yugoslavia.

Since the Commission has now unblocked its Facebook page and replied, the Ombudsman finds that the Commission has settled these aspects of the case. The Ombudsman further finds that the Commission committed no maladministration by not disclosing the requested information because it constituted protected personal data.

However, the Ombudsman makes a suggestion for improvement about the need for replies to citizens communicating with the Commission on social media. The Commission should take into account the fact that the right to a reply, guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the principles of good administration, as provided for in the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, applies to communications received via social media, subject only to  limitations justified under the principle of proportionality. The Commission should take this into account in revising its Information Providers Guide and in any other relevant work.

Decision in case OI/14/2015/ZA concerning a selection procedure for a post at the EU Delegation to Albania

It-Tnejn | 10 Lulju 2017

The case concerned a selection procedure for a post at the EU Delegation to Albania. The complainant was unhappy at not having been shortlisted for the post, as she believed that she fulfilled all the required criteria. She requested information on her application and the reasons why she was not the shortlisted. The Delegation failed to reply to her request in a timely manner.

The Ombudsman inquired into the matter. In the course of the inquiry, the Delegation replied to the complaint, thereby resolving this aspect of the complaint. As regards the decision not to shortlist the complainant, the Ombudsman found the Delegation’s explanation of its decision to be reasonable and closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration. The Ombudsman suggested that the European External Action Service should give guidance to Delegations on the need to keep candidates informed where selection competitions have been delayed. The Ombudsman also suggested that the European External Action Service should include, in the ‘EU Delegations’ Guide for Local Agents’, more detailed requirements regarding the type of information to be included in the list/excel spreadsheet drawn up by selection committees.

Decision in case 1102/2016/JN on the Commission’s failure to reply to correspondence and to fully disclose a document

Il-Ġimgħa | 13 Jannar 2017

The case concerned the Commission’s failure to reply to the complainant’s correspondence in the context of a financial audit at the Member State level. Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the Commission replied. It disclosed the document requested by the complainant but redacted some personal data (names of physical persons). The Ombudsman found that the Commission correctly justified the redaction under Regulation 45/2001.

Decision in case 739/2016/JAP concerning the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s refusal to grant access to a downloadable version of its case law database

L-Erbgħa | 11 Jannar 2017

The case concerned the handling of a request for information as how to obtain a downloadable version of a case law database held by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (‘EUIPO’). The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and asked EUIPO to better explain its reasons why it could not comply with the request. The EUIPO’s explanation was accurate and reasonable. Thus, the case was closed with the finding of no maladministration.

Access to documents

Il-Ħamis | 27 Ottubru 2016

Deċiżjoni fil-każ 726/2016/PMC - Deċiżjoni fil-każ 726/2016/PMC li jikkonċerna l-ħlas mill-Kunsill tal-Unjoni Ewropea lill-internati ta' ammont inqas mill-paga minima

Il-Ħamis | 29 Settembru 2016

Persuna li kienet internat fil-Kunsill tal-Unjoni Ewropea ilmentat li  l-gratifika mħallsa mill-istituzzjonijiet tal-UE lill-internati tagħhom mhijiex adegwata, peress li hija inqas mill-paga minima u għaldaqstant ma tiggarantixxix standard tal-għajxien deċenti lill-internati .

L-Ombudsman fetħet investigazzjoni dwar din il-kwistjoni. Hija sabet li l-Kunsill kien spjega b'mod suffiċjentement iddettaljat kif jiġi ddeterminat l-ammont ta' gratifika tat-traineeship. L-Ombudsman sabet li d-deċiżjoni li titħallas gratifika, ekwivalenti għal 25% tas-salarju ta' uffiċjal fil-grad ta' AD5.1, kienet raġonevoli. Il-Kunsill ħa din id-deċiżjoni hu u jaġixxi fi ħdan il-marġni tad-diskrezzjoni tiegħu, abbażi tal-bżonnijiet amministrattivi tiegħu u l-baġit disponibbli.

L-Ombudsman innutat li l-Kunsill jiddistingwi bejn traineeships u impjiegi. Għaldaqstant, internat jirċievi gratifika u mhux salarju, minħabba li d-drittijiet u l-obbligi ta' internat mhumiex komparabbli ma' dawk ta' membru tal-persunal. L-Ombudsman ikkunsidrat l-ispjegazzjoni tal-Kunsill bħala waħda raġonevoli.

Għaldaqstant, għalqet il-każ bis-sejba li l-prattika tal-Kunsill ma tikkostitwixxix amministrazzjoni ħażina.

Decision in case 18/2016/ZA on the European Central Bank’s failure to reply adequately to request for information

It-Tlieta | 27 Settembru 2016

The case concerned the European Central Bank’s (ECB) failure to reply adequately to the complainant's request for information concerning the ECB's competence to ensure the enforcement of financial regulation and consumer protection legislation in Member-States. The Ombudsman asked the ECB to provide the complainant with a detailed answer concerning its supervisory role vis a vis the national central banks, but also the role of the Single Supervisory Mechanism in supervising private entities. The ECB replied in a clear and comprehensive manner. The Ombudsman therefore decided to close the case.

Deċiżjoni fil-każ 437/2015/ZA - Deċiżjoni tal-Ombudsman Ewropew dwar l-ilment 437/2015/ZA rigward l-allegati kunflitti ta' interess fi proġett dwar il-valutazzjoni tar-riskju ta' OĠM iffinanzjat mill-Kummissjoni Ewropea

Il-Ħamis | 28 Lulju 2016

L-Ombudsman investigat il-każ. Hija qablet mal-Kummissjoni li din ma għandhiex tinterferixxi fl-interpretazzjoni xjentifika jew fil-proċess tal-publikazzjoni ta' studji xjentifiċi li din tiffinanzja. L-Ombudsman ikkonkludiet ukoll li s-sempliċi fatt li hemm rabtiet bejn ix-xjenzjati involuti fil-proġett u l-industrija mhuwiex prova ta' kunflitt ta' interess. L-Ombudsman innotat li l-Kummissjoni ta' spiss tiffinanzja proġetti mwettqa jew minn industrija jew minn gruppi b'rabtiet mill-qrib mal-industrija. Madankollu, l-Ombudsman issuġġeriet li l-Kummissjoni jenħtieġ li tikkunsidra li tibgħat lill-ilmentatur spjegazzjoni aktar sħiħa u aktar dettaljata dwar ir-raġuni għaliex din hija tal-fehma li r-rabtiet bejn l-industrija u x-xjenzjati ta' GRACE ma joħolqux sitwazzjoni ta' kunflitt ta' interess.

L-Ombudsman sabet ukoll li l-Kummissjoni kienet konformi mad-dispożizzjonijiet legali kollha dwar il-pubblikazzjoni tal-ismijiet tal-evalwaturi esperti involuti fl-għażla tal-proġetti ffinanzjati skont is-Seba' Programm Qafas. Bil-ħsieb li tkompli ttejjeb it-trasparenza u tiffaċilita l-iskrutinju pubbliku, l-Ombudsman issuġġeriet li, fil-futur, il-Kummissjoni jenħtieġ li tippubblika l-ismijiet tal-evalwaturi esperti permezz ta' tqassim li jkun jikkorrispondi għas-suġġett u/jew il-kategoriji tal-qasam tas-Seba' Programm Qafas. L-Ombudsman issuġġeriet ukoll li d-dikjarazzjonijiet tal-interess tal-evalwaturi jenħtieġ li jiġu ppubblikati wkoll.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 356/2014/KM against the European Central Bank (ECB)

It-Tlieta | 09 Frar 2016

The case concerned a complaint that the European Central Bank did not, as some central banks had done in the past, publish a scoreboard on compliance by Eurozone Member States with the so-called "convergence criteria". The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the ECB is not obliged to publish such an overview, given, in particular, that Member States are now called upon to comply with different criteria. She also found that the ECB and the European Commission publish relevant and accessible statistical information on market surveillance. There was therefore no maladministration.

Decision in case 1133/2014/JAS on the European Parliament's handling of a request for information concerning a selection procedure

Il-Ħamis | 14 Jannar 2016

The case concerned the European Parliament's alleged failure to provide the complainant with the assessment grid and with the specific reasons for the points awarded to him in a selection procedure.

Given that the Civil Service Tribunal has ruled, in a recent judgment, that selection boards do not need to give candidates the corrected version of their tests, the reasons why replies were erroneous, or the evaluation grids used for the written and oral tests, the Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the complaint to allow Parliament to comment on the relevance of the Tribunal's findings on its recruitment proceedings.

Parliament argued that its reasons for refusing to provide the complainant with the requested information were supported by the Civil Service Tribunal's judgment. It nevertheless provided the complainant with the reasons why he was awarded a certain number of points for certain answers.

The Ombudsman found that Parliament acted reasonably and therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1171/2013/TN on the work of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on the EU rules on flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements for commercial airline transport

Il-Ħamis | 05 Novembru 2015

The complaint, which was submitted by the British Air Line Pilots' Association, relates to the EU rules on flight and duty time limitations and rest requirements for commercial airlines. More specifically, it concerns the manner in which EASA had conducted its process to update these rules. The complainant contended (i) that scientific advice should have had a more prominent role in the rulemaking process; (ii) that EASA had failed to provide evidence of the qualifications of the members of the rulemaking group; and (iii) that EASA did not deal adequately with conflict of interest issues.

The Ombudsman found no maladministration by EASA as regards the role of scientific advice in the rulemaking process. As regards the issue of how EASA manages possible conflicts of interest in the rulemaking groups, the Ombudsman found that its policy for mitigating such conflicts in the case of its own staff had been changed and that this revised approach is now being applied also to experts in the rulemaking groups. On this basis the Ombudsman concluded that she did not have to inquire further into that issue. Finally, EASA accepted the Ombudsman's recommendation to provide the complainant with anonymised information about the members of the rulemaking group. The Ombudsman therefore closed the case, encouraging EASA to adopt a more proactive approach to disclosing information available to it about the qualifications and expertise of members of the rulemaking group. She also flagged that she is considering looking into issues related to the work done by external experts for certain EU agencies.

Deċiżjoni fil-każ 2004/2013/PMC - Il-ġestjoni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea ta' aċċess għal dokumenti relatati mas-sorveljanza tal-internet mis-servizzi tal-intelliġenza tar-Renju Unit

Il-Ħamis | 05 Novembru 2015

Il-każ jikkonċerna ċ-ċaħda tal-Kummissjoni għal aċċess pubbliku ta' dokumenti li jikkonċernaw is-sorveljanza tal-internet mis-servizzi tal-intelliġenza tar-Renju Unit. L-Ombudsman irrakkomandat li l-Kummissjoni għandha tagħti aċċess għal dokument wieħed speċifiku (ittra mis-Segretarju għall-Affarijiet Barranin tar-Renju Unit lill-Viċi-President tal-Kummissjoni ta' dak iż-żmien) u, fil-każ tad-dokumenti l-oħra mitluba, li l-Kummissjoni għandha jew tiżvelahom jew tiġġustifika b'mod xieraq għaliex, fil-fehma tagħha, l-iżvelar ġie miċħud.

Il-Kummissjoni ddeċidiet li tiżvela l-ittra tas-Segretarju għall-Affarijiet Barranin tar-Renju Unit, u b'hekk taċċetta l-ewwel parti tar-rakkomandazzjoni tal-Ombudsman. Madankollu, żammet il-pożizzjoni tagħha li ma tiżvelax id-dokumenti l-oħrajn. Hija ġġustifikat din il-pożizzjoni abbażi li kienet għadha qiegħda tinvestiga l-kwistjoni dwar jekk il-programmi ta' sorveljanza tal-massa jiksrux il-liġi tal-UE, b'mod partikolari rigward id-dritt tal-individwu għall-protezzjoni tad-data. Il-Kummissjoni argumentat li sakemm l-investigazzjoni tagħha tkun ingħalqet b'mod definittiv, żvelar bikri tal-bqija tad-dokumenti kkonċernati jaffettwa ħażin id-djalogu bejn l-awtoritajiet tar-Renju Unit u l-Kummissjoni. B'mod iktar ġenerali, argumentat li l-kapaċità tagħha biex twettaq l-investigazzjoni tagħha b'mod effettiv, u biex tiddeċiedi fuq ir-rispons xieraq, għandha tkun imħarsa mir-riskju ta' pressjoni esterna. Fl-aħħar nett, il-Kummissjoni ma qisitx li kien hemm interess pubbliku ewlieni fl-iżvelar.

L-Ombudsman mhijiex konvinta li l-Kummissjoni ġġustifikat b'mod adegwat id-deċiżjoni tagħha biex tiċħad l-aċċess pubbliku għall-bqija tad-dokmenti mhux żvelati. Peress li la żvelat dawn id-dokumenti u lanqas ipprovdiet raġunijiet xierqa għaċ-ċaħda tal-aċċess pubbliku lilhom, huwa ċar li l-Kummissjoni rrifjutat ir-rakkomandazzjoni tal-Ombudsman b'rabta ma' dawn id-dokumenti. Barra minn hekk, l-Ombudsman innotat li l-Kummissjoni ma tidher li ħadet l-ebda azzjoni rigward l-investigazzjoni tagħha sa mill-2013. Għaldaqstant, l-Ombudsman issib li l-azzjonijiet tal-Kummissjoni f'dan il-każ jistgħu jitqiesu bħala amministrazzjoni ħażina u, fil-fatt, bħala amministrazzjoni ħażina serja meta tqis l-importanza ta' din il-kwistjoni partikolari għaċ-ċittadini tal-UE.