Ombudsman criticises Commission for cancelling travel allowances for Joint Research Centre staff without notice

July 17, 2002

Strasbourg, 16 July 2002

Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 821/2001/SM against the European Commission. Strasbourg, 26 June 2002 - text

Complaint on behalf of staff at the Joint Research Centre (the JRC) concerning the annulment of a transport allowance for rotating staff at Ispra in Italy...

The complainant alleges that the transport rules changed without prior consultation of staff concerned. The complainant also alleges that he never received a reasoned decision from the Commission under Article 90 of the Staff Regulations.

He claims that the Commission declares its decision void and that it re-establishes the transport allowance in question...

THE DECISION

1 Alleged failure to consult staff before abolishing the transport allowance

1.1 The complainant alleges that the transport rules changed without prior consultation of staff concerned.

1.2 The Commission considers that it informed the staff representatives of the reasons for the decision during a meeting on 29 September 1999.

1.3 The Ombudsman notes that by decision of September 1999 the Commission withdrew transport allowance rights granted to a number of officials with a rotating working schedule at the JRC at Ispra, Italy with retroactive effect as from 1 July 1999, as there was no legal basis for the allowance in question. On 29 September 1999, that is two days later, the staff representative was informed about the decision and its reasons. The Ombudsman finds that the withdrawal of the allowance should have been done with prior consultation of the staff concerned; that is the staff representative in the present case should have been informed in advance about the Commission's coming decision and the reasons for it.

A critical remark will be made in this regard.

2 Alleged failure to provide a reasoned decision under Article 90(1) and (2)

2.1 The complainant alleges that he never received a reasoned decision from the Commission under Article 90 of the Staff Regulations.

2.2 The Commission considers that it did not have to provide a reasoned decision to the complainant as his complaint was submitted after the expiry of the deadline of three months as stipulated in Article 90(2) of the Staff Regulations.

2.3 The Ombudsman notes under Article 90 of the Staff Regulations, the appointing authority shall notify the person concerned of its reasoned decision within four months from the date on which the request was made. In the present case, the appeal had been lodged after the time limit for presenting an appeal had expired and was therefore not dealt with. The Ombudsman considers that it would have been proper to inform the complainant in writing of the reasons why the appeal was not dealt with. The failure of duly informing the complainant in this respect constitutes an instance of maladministration.

A critical remark will be made in this regard.

3 Claimed re-establishment of the transport allowance

3.1 The complainant claims on behalf of the rotating staff at the JRC that the Commission declares its decision void and that it re-establishes the transport allowance in question.

3.2 The Commission considers that it was necessary to abolish the transport allowance because of a stricter control of Community budgetary expenditure and in particular because there was no legal basis for the allowance in question.

3.3 The Ombudsman notes that the Council Regulation 122/66/CEE(1) only explicitly mentions the following locations in Italy: Centrale de Latina, Centrale de Garigagliano and Casaccia and that it appears that there is no legal basis for the JRC at Ispra in this Regulation laying down the list of places for which a transport allowance may be granted under the Staff Regulations. Following an assessment of different transport allowances for Community officials and other staff, the decision to abolish the transport allowance was jointly adopted by the Commission's Directors General of the JRC and DG Admin annulling all prior decisions granting the allowance in question. This decision was based on the audit report by the Court of Auditors from 1992 which concluded that the Articles 14 and 15 of Annex VII in the Staff Regulations which regulate reimbursement of expenses did not allow for the particular transport allowance for rotating staff at the JRC at Ispra and that this allowance was against the principles of sound management of Community funds. In the light of the above, the Ombudsman considers that the Commission has given a reasonable account for its decision to abolish the transport allowance in question.

3.4 In these circumstances, there appears to be no maladministration on the part of the Commission as regards this aspect of the complaint.

4 Conclusion

On the basis of the Ombudsman's inquiries into this complaint, it is necessary to make the following two critical remarks:

By decision of September 1999 the Commission withdrew transport allowance rights granted to a number of officials with a rotating working schedule at the JRC at Ispra, Italy with retroactive effect as from 1 July 1999, as there was no legal basis for the allowance in question. On 29 September 1999, that is two days later, the staff representative was informed about the decision and its reasons. The withdrawal of the allowance should have been done with prior consultation of the staff concerned; that is the staff representative in the present case should have been informed in advance about the Commissions coming decision and the reasons for it. The Ombudsman concludes that this is an instance of maladministration.

Under Article 90(2) of the Staff Regulations, the appointing authority shall notify the person concerned of its reasoned decision within four months from the date on which the request was made. In the present case, the appeal had been lodged after the time limit for presenting an appeal had expired and was therefore not dealt with. The Ombudsman considers that it would have been proper to inform the complainant in writing of the reasons why the appeal was not dealt with. The failure of duly informing the complainant in this respect constitutes an instance of maladministration

Given that these aspects of the case concern procedures relating to specific events in the past, it is not appropriate to pursue a friendly settlement of the matter. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case

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