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Recommendation on how the European Defence Agency handled the applications of its former Chief Executive to take on senior positions at Airbus (OI/3/2021/KR)

It-Tlieta | 13 Lulju 2021

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry on her own initiative into the decision of the European Defence Authority (EDA) to allow its former Chief Executive to take up two senior positions with Airbus, an aerospace company.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry also looked into how the EDA dealt with the fact that the former Chief Executive took up his new positions before the EDA had authorised him to do so, which is a breach of the EDA’s Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman found that the conditions imposed on the former Chief Executive by the EDA in its authorising decision were insufficient when measured against the risks, and could not be monitored and enforced. There were also shortcomings in how the EDA assessed the risk of conflicts of interest.

The EDA should have instead applied stronger conditions and forbidden the former Chief Executive from taking up the position which gave rise to the greatest risk of conflict with the EDA’s legitimate interest. Not doing so amounted to maladministration by the EDA.

Based on these findings, the Ombudsman issued two recommendations:

(i) In future, the EDA should forbid its senior staff from taking up positions after their term of office where a clear conflict of interest arises with the legitimate interests of the EDA;

(ii) The EDA should set out the criteria for forbidding such moves, in order to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EDA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.

Recommendation in case 1777/2020/KR on how the European Commission handled concerns about the composition of the High Level Forum on the EU Capital Markets Union and alleged conflicts of interest of some of its members

It-Tlieta | 04 Mejju 2021

The case concerned the High Level Forum on the proposed EU Capital Markets Union, a Commission expert group. The Forum gathered senior industry executives and top international experts and scholars to develop new ideas on related policies for the Commission.

The Forum had two types of members:

Type A - who were appointed in their personal capacity to act independently and in the public interest;

Type B - members who represented a common interest of different stakeholder organisations.

The complainant was concerned that a number of Type A members had links to financial institutions and could, as such, not be considered independent. After the Forum’s recommendations were made public, these members’ declarations of interests were no longer publicly available. In general, the complainant was concerned that the Forum’s composition was insufficiently broad and diverse.

The Ombudsman inquiry found two instances of maladministration:

1. Instead of following its own rules on conflicts of interest for Type A members, the Commission applied general measures to mitigate risks of conflicts of interest. These measures were insufficient.

2. Consequently, the split between the two types of Forum members deviated significantly from the balance that the Commission claimed it struck, and made public.

Based on her inquiry, the Ombudsman recommends that the Commission diligently apply its rules regarding conflicts of interest for individuals applying to be appointed as Type A members of expert groups. Other mitigating measures to address risks of conflicts of interest of Type A members may be taken in addition, but should not substitute the Commission’s rules to this end.

Id-deċiżjoni tal-Ombudsman Ewropew fl-investigazzjoni konġunta 853/2020/KR dwar id-deċiżjoni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea li tagħti kuntratt lil BlackRock Investment Management biex twettaq studju dwar l-integrazzjoni tal-objettivi ambjentali, soċjali u ta’ governanza (ESG) fir-regoli bankarji tal-UE

It-Tnejn | 23 Novembru 2020

Il-każ jikkonċerna d-deċiżjoni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea li tagħti kuntratt lil BlackRock Investment Management biex twettaq studju dwar l-integrazzjoni tal-objettivi ambjentali, soċjali u ta’ governanza (ESG) fir-regoli bankarji tal-UE L-Ombudsman fetħet inkjesta wara li rċeviet ilmenti minn MPE u koalizzjoni ta’ organizzazzjonijiet tas-soċjetà ċivili. L-inkjesta għamlet valutazzjoni dwar kif il-Kummissjoni evalwat l-offerta tal-kumpanija fil-kuntest tas-sejħa għall-offerti għat-twettiq tal-istudju.

L-Ombudsman sabet li l-offerta tal-kumpanija qajmet tħassib. L-ewwel nett, jekk offerent ikollu interess finanzjarju dirett jew indirett fl-iżviluppi f’suq, minħabba li jinvesti f’dak is-suq, jew jamministra investimenti f’dak is-suq, hemm riskju ċar li dawk l-interessi jistgħu jinfluwenzaw l-eżitu tal-ħidma tiegħu favur tiegħu stess. Dan japplika għall-kumpanija inkwistjoni. It-tieni nett, minħabba l-fattur ta’ korrezzjoni applikat mill-Kummissjoni fl-evalwazzjoni tagħha, il-prezz baxx li offriet il-kumpanija ottimizza l-probabbiltà tagħha li tingħata l-kuntratt. Ir-rebħ tal-kuntratt jista’ jippermetti lill-kumpanija tikseb għarfien u tasserixxi influwenza fuq qasam ta’ investiment li qed jikber u li huwa ta’ rilevanza maġġuri u li dejjem qed tiżdied għall-klijenti tagħha u għalhekk għall-kumpanija nnifisha.

L-Ombudsman taqbel li hemm tħassib leġittimu dwar ir-riskju ta’ kunflitti ta’ interess li jista’ jkollhom impatt negattiv fuq it-twettiq tal-kuntratt peress li l-kumpanija manifestament għandha interess fl-iżvilupp tar-regolamentazzjoni futura tal-UE li se jkollha impatt fuqha stess u fuq il-klijenti tagħha. Hija kkonkludiet li l-Kummissjoni missha kienet aktar rigoruża, u applikat perspettiva usa’, hekk kif għaddiet biex tivverifika, f’konformità mar-regoli, li l-kumpanija ma kinitx soġġetta għal kunflitt ta’ interess li jista’ jaffettwa b’mod negattiv il-kapaċità tal-kumpanija li teżegwixxi l-kuntratt. Madankollu, in-nuqqas li tagħmel dan ma jilħaqx il-limitu ta’ amministrazzjoni ħażina, minħabba l-limitazzjonijiet tar-regoli tal-UE dwar l-għoti ta’ kuntratti f’sitwazzjonijiet bħal dawn fuq il-persunal tal-Kummissjoni li jagħti l-kuntratt.

L-Ombudsman tissuġġerixxi li l-Kummissjoni taġġorna l-linji gwida tagħha għall-proċeduri tal-akkwist pubbliku għal kuntratti ta’ servizzi relatati mal-politika, filwaqt li tiċċara mal-persunal is-sitwazzjonijiet meta għandhom jeskludu offerenti minħabba kunflitti ta’ interess li jistgħu jaffettwaw b’mod negattiv l-eżekuzzjoni tal-kuntratt. L-Ombudsman tissuġġerixxi wkoll li l-Kummissjoni tirrifletti dwar jekk huwiex meħtieġ ukoll aġġornament speċifiku tar-regoli applikabbli biex dawn isiru aktar rilevanti għall-ambizzjonijiet ta’ politika attwali tal-UE. L-UE qed tippjana perjodu ta’ livelli bla preċedent ta’ nfiq u investiment, li neċessarjament se jinvolvi rabtiet sinifikanti mas-settur privat.

Din id-Deċiżjoni se tintbagħat ukoll lil-leġiżlaturi tal-UE. Huwa f’idejn il-leġiżlaturi li jaqblu dwar il-bażi legali tat-“tranżizzjoni ekoloġika” inkluż il-mod xieraq li bih jiġu influwenzati l-iżvilupp u t-tnedija tagħha.