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Decision in case 964/2020/JN on how the European Commission evaluated a tender in a public procurement procedure for the translation of a report on the judicial reform in Cyprus

Dinsdag | 11 mei 2021

The case concerned the European Commission´s decision to reject a tender in a public procurement procedure for the translation of a report on the judicial reform in Cyprus. The complainant considered that the Commission had been wrong in rejecting his tender because it considered he did not meet the specifications for the required experience. In the complainant’s view, the Commission should have asked him for clarifications.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission acted reasonably, and closed the inquiry finding no maladministration. She trusts that, going forward, the Commission will ensure that unsuccessful tenderers receive an adequate explanation of the reasons why their tender has been rejected, without having to ask for clarification.

Besluit in zaak 1944/2020/TE inzake de wijze waarop de Europese Commissie en het Europees Agentschap voor chemische stoffen de Europese Databank voor informatie over zorgwekkende stoffen in artikelen (SCIP-databank) heeft opgezet

Donderdag | 03 december 2020

De zaak betrof het opzetten van een nieuwe Europese databank voor informatie over zorgwekkende stoffen in artikelen (SCIP-databank) uit hoofde van de EU-wetgeving op het gebied van afval. De klager, een Europese handelsvereniging, was van mening dat de reeks verplichte gegevens die de leveranciers van artikelen aan het Europees Agentschap voor chemische stoffen moeten verstrekken, veel verder gaat dan in de EU-wetgeving inzake chemische stoffen is voorgeschreven.

De klacht heeft betrekking op de uitlegging van verschillende bepalingen in EU-wetgeving inzake afval en chemische stoffen. Naar de mening van de Ombudsman hebben de Commissie en het agentschap de betrokken bepalingen op redelijke wijze uitgelegd. Ook al wijkt de uitleg van de klager hiervan af, is dit niet voldoende om te suggereren dat de uitleg van de Commissie en het agentschap niet juist is. Het staat aan een rechtbank om bij een eventueel geschil te bepalen wat de juiste uitleg is. De Ombudsman heeft daarom geen wanbeheer vastgesteld en de zaak werd afgesloten.

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

Dinsdag | 13 oktober 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

Donderdag | 08 oktober 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.

Decision in case 1708/2019/NH on the EU Publications Office refusing to publish a notice for tender in the Official Journal of the European Union

Vrijdag | 08 mei 2020

The case concerned the refusal by the EU Publications Office to publish a contract notice in the Official Journal of the EU because it contained text in more than one language. The complainant, who works for a Belgian cultural foundation, contended that the Publications Office had failed to give the legal basis for its refusal.

In the course of the Ombudsman inquiry, the Publications Office gave the legal basis for refusing to publish the complainant’s notice. It also explained how it handles issues of this kind.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with the finding that the Publications Office had settled the aspect of the complaint that concerned the legal basis for the refusal to publish the contract notice. The Ombudsman further found that the Office’s explanations as to how it handles issues of this nature do not reveal any maladministration. The Ombudsman made a suggestion for improvement to ensure that language requirements are clearly explained on the Publication Office’s website.

Decision in case 2011/2019/LM on how the European Commission dealt with the fact that the wrong deadline was given for traineeship applicants to upload supporting documents

Woensdag | 19 februari 2020

The complainant applied for a traineeship at the European Commission and was asked to submit supporting documents. When she checked her online application account, she noticed that the deadline set for doing so had already expired by six months. When she logged in again, one week later, she learned that the actual deadline had expired earlier that day. Dissatisfied with the Commission’s decision to exclude her from the selection procedure, she turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman finds it regrettable that the Commission initially gave an incorrect deadline in the application accounts. While the Commission corrected the error within 15 minutes, it was alerted to the fact that some candidates had seen it. As such, it should have sent a notification to all candidates about the correct deadline.

At the same time, the complainant herself was required to check her application account at least twice a week and, in this case, failed to do so. It was therefore reasonable for the Commission not to accept her supporting documents. The Ombudsman closes the case, welcoming the steps the Commission has taken to avoid similar mistakes happening in the future.

Decision in case 306/2018/JAP concerning how the European Commission dealt with an audit of three EU-funded projects

Dinsdag | 26 november 2019

The complainant took part in three EU-funded projects in the context of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Its complaint to the Ombudsman concerned how the European Commission dealt with an audit of the expenditure claimed in the context of the projects.

The auditors found that the complainant’s time-recording system was unreliable. They asked the complainant to provide alternative evidence to substantiate the costs for personnel and other actions. The complainant submitted a number of documents to prove the costs incurred in the projects. However, the Commission rejected them as unreliable and, according to the complainant, decided to recover more than EUR 225 000.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into how the Commission dealt with the audit, and its decision to recover funds. Her inquiry team met with the Commission’s representatives and inspected its file.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission took the complainant’s allegation that the audit was badly conducted seriously, investigated the matter and assessed the alternative evidence provided.

While the Ombudsman recognises the Commission’s duty to safeguard the financial interests of the EU and acknowledges its efforts to obtain alternative evidence from the complainant, she was not convinced that, by rejecting the personnel costs in full, the Commission had adopted a fair or proportionate approach. Since the Commission, on three separate occasions, rejected a request to consider at least a partial waiver of the recovery, the Ombudsman concluded that further inquiries were unlikely to serve any purpose. She makes a suggestion for improvement to seek to avoid similar cases occurring in future.