[UPDATE – We received a reply from the EU Ombudsman on 1 April 2015 regarding our case and are awaiting a reply from the Commission on the issue.]

Madrid, 4 March 2015 – Access Info Europe has criticised the European Commission’s refusal to provide full disclosure of an evaluation document about the procurement process for a water sewage plant in Serbia, in a complaint sent today to the European Ombudsman. [1]

Access Info was denied access to the names of the companies that applied for a tender contract, the names of the committee members who chose the winner of the tender, the assessments made of the companies, and the details of the procurement contract.

The European Commission office in Belgrade first denied this information on the grounds of protecting the commercial interests of the companies involved in the tender process. Upon appeal by Access Info, the Commission then argued that withholding this information was also necessary also to protect its decision-making process. The Commission further added that the names of the tender evaluators could not be disclosed in order to protect their personal privacy and integrity.

In the complaint, is calling upon the European Ombudsman to determine whether the refusal by the European Commission to provide only redacted versions of the evaluation documentation is in line with EU openness requirements and whether the Commission properly applied the public interest test. The specialist transparency organisation argues that there is a high public interest in knowing that public funds are being spent correctly, particularly because there is widespread concern about corruption and fraud in EU Accession countries such as Serbia.

“Since the contract has already been signed, and assuming there is nothing to hide, the public interest in knowing how tender decisions are taken should override any perceived harm to commercial interests or to the decision-making process, particularly where questions are being asked in a context that is prone to corruption-related scandals” highlighted Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

Andreas Pavlou of Access Info added: It is not clear from the response given by the EU Commission’s Delegation in Belgrade whether it even tried to seek consent from the members of the committee, which it should have done before taking the final decision that their names could not be published.”

The publication of the names of the members of the evaluation committee is essential for ensuring full accountability of the tender process. The members of the evaluation committee are performing a public function and as such they should be subject to public scrutiny for their decisions.

You can read a copy of the complaint here. word_icon

For more information, please contact:

Helen Darbishire | Access Info Europe
helen@access-info.org +34 913 656 558

Notes to the editors

[1] The complaint was made against the European Commission Delegation in Belgrade, yet it was addressed to the European External Action Service, as this EU body is responsible for the EU Delegations, including the Serbian one.