European Ombudsman: Maladministration in appointment of Commission’s Secretary-General

Wednesday, 05 September 2018 10:50
After reviewing thousands of documents during the summer, the European Ombudsman found four instances of maladministration in the controversial appointment of Martin Selmayr to the post as the European Commission’s Secretary-General in February 2018.
The Commission responded yesterday (4 September) that it does not share all aspects of the Ombudsman’s report, without explaining on which aspects it disagrees, and found comfort in the fact that the report does not explicitly contest the legality of the appointment procedure.

As the Ombudsman explains on its website, maladministration occurs if an institution or body fails to act in accordance with the law or the principles of good administration and can include administrative irregularities and abuse of power.

The ombudsman report follows the European Parliament´s own inquiry, which resulted in severe criticism of the Commission and described the appointment of Selmayr “as a coup-like action which stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law”.

In its investigation, the Ombudsman describes in detail the timeline of the appointment procedure and pinpoints where the instances of maladministration occurred. “The maladministration arose due to the Commission not following the relevant rules correctly either in letter or in spirit.”

The College of Commissioners collectively is responsible for the maladministration in this case. It is extraordinary that no Commissioner seemed to question the Secretary-General appointment procedure, which in the end raised valid widespread concerns,” writes the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly.

She also criticizes the Commission’s communications for having been “defensive, evasive and at times combative” and for having damaged public trust. The same pattern was partly disclosed also at yesterday's press briefing in Brussels.

The Ombudsman calls on the Commission to prevent a repetition of what happened by more transparency. The Commission should among others publish  vacancy notices and place them on the agenda of the weekly Commissioners’ meeting.

In the Commission’s response, the Commissioner in charge of budget and human resources, Gunther Oettinger, writes that the Commission is willing to discuss and reassess “how the application of the current rules and procedures can be improved in the future”. Next step will be an inter-institutional round table on 25 September.

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