Central exclusion database

The request was successful.

Dear Budget (BUDG),

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting documents which contain the following information:

- any reference to the central exclusion database, including any enitities that are within it, reasons for their inclusion, implications of their inclusion, as well as general criteria for inclusion of entities and the general implication of inclusion for entities.

Yours faithfully,

Leonie Hogervorst

Dear Madam/Sir,
We thank you for your e-mail of 6/12/2013
Please be informed that we would need the following information in order
to be able to register your request for access to documents in our
database :

* your name;
* your surname;
* your country;
* your activity sector..

Yours faithfully,

BUDG ACCES DOCUMENTS


European Commission
Directorate-General for Budget
Information and Communication
Avenue d´Auderghem, 19
B-1049 Brussels/Belgium

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Dear Budget (BUDG),

Thank you for your reply. Herewith I send you the requested information: my name and surname (respectively) are Leonie Hogervorst, country is Belgium and my activity sector is civil society/NGO.

Yours faithfully,

Leonie Hogervorst

Dear Sir/Madam,
Thank you for your e-mail dated 6/12/2013 We hereby acknowledge receipt of your request..
Your application will be handled within 15 working days. The time limit will expire on 07/01/2014 In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.
Yours faithfully
,
Budg Budget Inbox

European Commission
Directorate-General for Budget
Information and Communication
Avenue d´Auderghem, 19
B-1049 Brussels/Belgium

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3 Attachments

Dear Ms Hogervorst,

I refer to your e-mail of 09 December in which you make a request for access to documents concerning the Central exclusion database.

Several documents, which relate to you request, have been identified. They are listed below.

- Commission Regulation N° 1302/2008 of 17 December 2008 on the central exclusion database;
- Articles 106 to 109 of the Financial Regulation; Regulation (EU, Euratom) N° 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) N° 1605/2002;
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...
- Article 141 to 145 of the Commission Delegated Regulation N° 1268/2012 of 29 October 2012 on the rules of application of Regulation N° 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union;
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...
- Article 34 of the Commission's internal rules for 2013 on the implementation of the general budget of the European Union;
- DG BUDG Practical guide on the Central Exclusion Database, lastly updated in June 2014.

Having examined the documents under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to documents, I have come to the conclusion that they can be disclosed. So, please find the documents referred to above, attached to this email.

However, your request also refers to any entities included within the Central exclusion database. This disclosure is prevented by the exception to the right of access laid down in Article 4 (1) (b) "privacy and the integrity of the individual, in particular in accordance with Community legislation regarding the protection of personal data". The information contained in the central exclusion database is only accessible to authorised users of entities referred to in Article 108 of the FR.

In accordance with Article 7(2) of Regulation 1049/2001, you are entitled to make a confirmatory application requesting the Commission to review this position.
Such a confirmatory application should be addressed within 15 working days upon receipt of this letter to the Secretary-General of the Commission at the following address:

European Commission
Secretary-General
Transparency unit SG-B-5
BERL 5/327
B-1049 Bruxelles
or by email to: [email address]

Yours faithfully,
Mylène Maussire

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Dear Budget (BUDG),

Herewith I would like to make a confirmatory application, in accordance with Article 7(2) of Regulation 1049/2001, to my request for access to documents directed to DG Budget on the Central Exclusion Database. In this request, "any reference to the central exclusion database, including any entities that are within it, reasons for their inclusion, implications of their inclusion, as well as general criteria for inclusion of entities and the general implication of inclusion for entities" was asked for [http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/centr....

The reply from DG Budget to this request was only partially satisfying: documents on the legal basis of the Central Exclusion Database as well as general criteria for inclusion of entities and implication of inclusion were provided, however some information, namely the names of companies and individuals included in the database, was withheld on the basis of Article 4 (1)(b) of Regulation 1049/2001 that refers to "privacy and the integrity of the individual, in particular in accordance with Community legislation regarding the protection of personal data".

We feel however, that the public interest in revealing this information is in this case of greater and over-riding value.

The commitment to participative democracy within the Union and its institutions is delivered through transparency and the power of public scrutiny. By withholding this information, this core function of the operationality of the Union is being denied. This is particularly worrying when the information recently presented by Transparency International on the Central Exclusion Database [http://www.transparencyinternational.eu/... is taken into account, which presents information retrieved from DG Budget last October showing that only 6 companies or individuals are debarred on the basis of fraud, corruption, involvement in criminal organisation or money laundering, and only one company or individual was put in the exclusion database for grave professional misconduct (despite an agreement in 2006 that this would also provide the grounds for inclusion).

The World Bank employs a similar 'blacklist', but makes the names of included individuals and companies public. In the first seven months of 2013 alone, they listed 150 entities that are debarred because of fraud and corruption. The complete list includes 30 companies and individuals based in EU countries, placed there in the past three years alone. In addition, the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF in 2012 recommended that 54 entities be put in a judicial follow-up procedure, meaning that they were suspected of not abiding by the law.

Taken together, this not only shows that transparency of black lists is the norm rather than the exception, but it also demands further public scrutiny: why have certain organisations been included and not others, and what is the due process that led to the eventual debarring? Without this information being made publicly available, such scrutiny cannot take place. The consequence is that the public will never know which entities are no longer eligible for EU funding and which - despite apparently contravening the Commission's own rules - will still continue to do so. This is unacceptable considering it is money provided by citizens' taxes via governments that finds its way to organisations that may or may not be on the list. The Commission's fight against corruption and fraud in the EU will only become stronger, rather than weaker, if public interest is served by allowing full transparency and openness, also providing a deterrent against future acts.

The argument that the commercial interests of those entities will be harmed by making the list public is in this instance not valid - their commercial interests are already harmed by being on that list, which shows the European Commission - in a similar fashion to member-states - has decided that committing corruption or fraud merits such commercial harm.

We therefore ask for a review of this decision and for names of all entities to be publicly disclosed. While it may be argued that the personal data of private individuals could be withheld to protect privacy, this does not apply to commercial entities, particularly not those who have broken EU law.

Yours faithfully,

Leonie Hogervorst

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Hogervorst,
 
Please find attached a letter concerning your confirmatory application for
access to documents (GestDem 2013-6204).
 
Kind regards,
 
Unit B4 "Transparency"
Secretariat General
European Commission