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The evolution of European civil services.... from the citizen's perspective...., Speech by the European Ombudsman, Mr Jacob Söderman, at the Seminar on 'Civil service Reform in Europe' in the Chamber of Deputies, Rome, Italy, 21 October 2002

I would like to thank the rapporteur Claude Frey, Switzerland, LDR for his Preliminary draft report of 10 September 2002 (abud02.2002), prepared for the sub committee on budgetary affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He has produced a most interesting and coherent report that gives the possibility to approach the subject from many angles and look at different aspects.

Since I have worked as an Ombudsman for more than 13 years, first as a national ombudsman and then as Ombudsman of the European Union, I believe that I can contribute most usefully by commenting on the report from the citizen's perspective.

I will present 6 theses to you for further discussion.

1.The citizens of Europe expect public administration to be open, accountable, service-minded and based on sound financial management. To achieve this, the most appropriate structure or organisation should be used for each activity, drawing inspiration from the various models still remaining under public guidance and supervision.

2. The most essential resource in public administration are the staff.
A successful administration needs a competent and motivated staff. In some classical functions, they could hold traditional permanent post, but for most of the staff normal contracts strictly respecting the existing labour laws would be appropriate.

The public administration should be an exemplary employer.

3. The staff should have the right to take initiatives to promote better functioning in the administration and to exercise the freedom of expression by promoting public debate of their work and working conditions when necessary.

In case of fraud and irregularities, they must have the right to whistle-blow for good reason, without being liable to negative consequences from the management.

4. An open administration means that citizens know what the administration is planning to do ,what it is doing, and why it is doing it.

Therefore the public administration should have a well-planned information policy, including use of modern technological methods such as the Internet.

The citizens should also have the right of access to documents and information held by the administration, subject to justified exceptions stated in a law. Justified exceptions include sensitive information about citizens, matters related to public order and security, and internal drafts at a preliminary stage.

5. To promote a service-minded and honest administration, it is useful to have laws or codes to establish the citizen's rights and obligations in relation to the public administration. These laws or codes should also make clear what the administration should deliver to citizens. They could also have provisions to promote good and proper behaviour by staff as for example

- the Council of Europe's Code of conduct for public officials or

- the EU code of good administrative behaviour.

6. The citizens should have access to an easy and costless remedy in case of conflict with the public administration. The administration or body should therefore have an internal complaint procedures where disputes could be solved promptly.

Furthermore there should be extra-judicial control by an ombudsman with a general or special remit to solve disputes and take initiatives to promote better administrative procedures and practices.

Good independent auditing activities should also exist.