MaltaToday, 16 April 2008 | MaltaToday in Ombudsman’s 2007 selected case-list


NEWS | Wednesday, 16 April 2008

MaltaToday in Ombudsman’s 2007 selected case-list

The European Ombudsman yesterday listed MaltaToday’s request for public access to details of the payments received by MEPs among the top-listed of his selected cases from his annual report for 2007.
The case concerned a complaint by MaltaToday whose request for details of certain MEPs’ allowances was rejected by the Parliament on grounds of data protection.
In his draft recommendation, Ombudsman Paraskavas Nikiforos Diamandouros asked the European Parliament to accept MaltaToday’s request for details of the payments received by MEPs, including general expenditure, travel and subsistence allowances, as well as allowances for the MEPs’ assistants.
After consulting the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), the Ombudsman concluded that the public has the right to access information about MEPs’ allowances. This inquiry is ongoing and MaltaToday is following up the case.
A record number of inquiries (28%) carried out by the Ombudsman in 2007 concerned lack of transparency in the EU institutions, including the refusal of information or documents.
“Complaints concerning lack of transparency are an opportunity for EU institutions and bodies to demonstrate their willingness to be as open and accountable as possible. I hope that the Commission’s proposals for reform of the legislation on public access to documents will contribute to realising this important goal,” the Ombudsman said at the presentation of his Annual Report 2007 in Brussels.
In almost 70% of the 3,211 complaints from EU citizens, companies, NGOs and associations, the Ombudsman was able to help the complainant by opening an inquiry into the case, transferring it to a competent body, or giving advice on where to turn.
Germany produced the greatest number of complaints (16%), followed by Spain (11%), France (8%) and Poland (7%). But relative to the size of their population, most complaints came from Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus.
One complaint from Malta concerned that of a candidate for the post of Head of Representation in Malta, who complained against the Commission in connection with the disclosure and appearance in three local newspaper articles, of the names of candidates for the post.
The complainant considered the three leaks a breach of trust with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community institutions.
The European Commission stated that no objective evidence had been found that would enable it to identify the source of the leaked data. It said the exhaustive list of persons having access to the information on which the press articles were based could not be established because of the large number of recipients of the file containing the applications for the post, the numerous secretariats and staff involved, and the potential number of people with access to the electronic data in question.
The Ombudsman found the Commission’s providing the confidential personal data to a “large number of recipients” and “numerous secretariats and staff involved” and the subsequent impossibility to establish the lists of persons having access to that personal data might have reasonably increased the possibility of leaks of the personal data to unauthorised recipients. The Ombudsman therefore made a critical remark that such a situation was not compatible with the Commission’s obligations under Regulation 45/2001 and constituted an instance of maladministration.

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