Commissioners' Expenses 2014 and 2015

Helen Darbishire made this access to documents request to Secretariat General of the European Commission

The request was partially successful.

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General,

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:

The mission and representation costs (expenses) of the Commissioners in the current (Juncker) Commission from 1 November 2014 to 30 July 2015.

I am interested in obtaining documents which will provide me, inter alia and at a minimum, with a sufficient level of detail to be able to ascertain how much was spent by each Commissioner on each mission they have undertaken (with details on travel, accommodation, refreshment, etc.) itemised by payment(in other words, the breakdown of the spending by invoice or bill).

Similarly, for the representation costs, I am interested in knowing for each identified activity or event, the details of what was spent and for which items, broken down per invoice or bill paid.

Please feel free to contact me for any clarifications you may need about this request.

Yours faithfully,

Helen Darbishire

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Dear Ms Darbishire,

Could you please confirm your postal address:

Cava de San Miguel 8, 4º centro 28005 Madrid Spain

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM

European Commission
Secretariat General
Unit SG.B4 – Transparency

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Access to Documents team

Yes, that remains the correct postal address

(FYI, we receiving without problem at that address the letters that you send by registered post).

With best regards,

Helen
HELEN DARBISHIRE
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
ACCESS INFO EUROPE

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Dear Ms Darbishire,

Thank you for your request dated 19/10/2015 and providing your postal address. We hereby acknowledge receipt of your application registered on 20/10/2015 under the reference number GestDem 2015/5430.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, you will receive a response to your request within 15 working days: 11/11/2015.

If this deadline needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.

Best regards,

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM

European Commission
Secretariat General
Unit SG.B4 – Transparency

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Commission Access to Documents Team

I am writing to follow up on this request as the 15 day period had lapsed. I wonder if you could kindly let me know when I might expect a response.

With best regards

Helen Darbishire

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment 15 11 13 Encl 1 Rep costs.pdf
10K Download View as HTML

Attachment 15 11 13 Encl 2 Mission costs.pdf
10K Download View as HTML

Attachment 15 11 13 Reply ML to HD GestDem 5430.pdf
509K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Darbishire,
 
Please find enclosed the reply sent by Mr Marc Lemaître, Director PMO,
regarding your request on the above mentioned subject.
 
Kind regards,
 
Dameria Dufays
On behalf of Mr Lemaître
 
 
 

Link to this

From: EC ARES NOREPLY
Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment anastni Scan 3647797546 100000 EC.pdf
2.1M Download View as HTML

Attachment Annex 2 Mission expenses.xls 2 4.pdf
10K Download View as HTML

Attachment Annex 1 Representation expenses 2.pdf
10K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Darbishire,

Please find attached the reply sent by Mr Marc LEMAITRE, Director PMO, regarding your "Request for access to documents - DARBISHIRE - Ref GestDem N° 2015/5430.

Kind regards,

Dameria Dufays
on behalf of Mr Lemaître

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: This e-mail was automatically generated by the European Commission's central mail registration system.
Replies by e-mail must be addressed to the original sender LEMAITRE Marc (mailto:[email address]).
Remarque : Cet e-mail a été généré automatiquement par le système d'enregistrement central du courrier de la Commission européenne.
Toute réponse éventuelle par e-mail doit être adressée à l'expéditeur en personne, à savoir LEMAITRE Marc (mailto:[email address]).

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear EC ARES NOREPLY,

Thank you for your message. I confirm that I received both sets of copies of the reply and information.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Darbishire

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is a confirmatory application to challenge the refusal to provide access to documents which provide details on the mission and representation costs for the Commissioners in the current (Juncker) Commission from 1 November 2014 to 30 July 2015.

The European Commission provided only totals per Commissioner for each of mission and representation costs for the relevant period.

I hereby request that you conduct a review of the refusal to provide the requested documents on the following grounds.

1) Might not contain personal data

The Commission states that the “request for access to the underlying documents cannot be handled in its present form, as a breakdown of payments by category might contain personal data, which would have to be expunged before disclosure.”

In the first instance I note that “might contain personal data” is a rather general statement and gives the impression that no attempt has been made to verify whether or not these documents do contain personal data.

Linked to this, there is a lack of specificity in the refusal as to precisely which documents we are talking about. I asked for documents that would provide me with a “sufficient level of detail to be able to ascertain how much was spent by each Commissioner on each mission they have undertaken (with details on travel, accommodation, refreshment, etc.) itemised by payment (in other words, the breakdown of the spending by invoice or bill).” I did not, however, ask for copies of the original – “underlying” – documents but rather for the amounts of expenditure.

To the extent that this information is held in a database or excel sheet (both of which also fall within the definition of information in Regulation 1049/2001 Articles 2.3 and 3(a), it should be possible to provide me with a document containing the requested level of detail and it is not necessarily the case that this would include personal data.

Indeed, given that it was possible to extract very precise totals for the mission expenses, it does appear that this data is indeed held in a database. It would seem likely that the data on the 1180 missions / from almost the 540 files has been digitalised with some level of detail. I have submitted a separate request (here: http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/datab... about the system in order to understand that better, but in the meantime, I request that as part of conducting a review related to this confirmatory application, the Secretariat General look into this matter and examine whether it would in fact be possible to extract more detailed data from the database.

As to whether original receipts contain personal data, I note that there are plenty of good practice examples from other countries where original invoices are published, usually with minimal redaction of personal information. An example of expenses data obtained in Ireland is available here: https://thestory.ie/category/fois/expens....

2) Failure to seek a compromise:

The Commission argues that assessing each statement of expenses/invoice would be disproportionate work and hence would lead to a situation where the principle of good administrative practice is jeopardised. As noted above, I do not believe that fulfilling this request requires such an examination.

The Commission refers to case law which states that if no compromise can be reached, then the request may be refused. This statement implies that an attempt to reach a compromise was made and failed, but I note that no such attempt was made. Had this been done I could, for example, have significantly narrowed the scope of the request (shorter time period, starting with one Commissioner).

Indeed, I specifically stated in my request that there should be no hesitation in contacting me to discuss it. The Commission manifestly failed to do this and I ask that this failure, which is a breach of both Regulation 1049/2001 and good administrative practice, also be subject of the review.

I hereby reiterate that openness to reach a compromise on the scope and scale of the request and invite the Secretariat General to contact me by email or telephone (+34667685319) to discuss this.

3) Harm test not applied

Given that the Commission seems to be relying on Article 4 (1) (b) (although this was not specified), it should demonstrate how the disclosure of documents which “might” contain personal data would undermine the privacy and integrity of the individuals concerned. It is hard to see how the expenses of each Commissioner on their travel-related costs and on representation costs would include data beyond their names that would harm their privacy, and their names have already been provided with associated totals.

At issue here is the spending by public officials of public funds while on public business. Often the activities of the Commissioners are proactively published on the European Commission websites and elsewhere. The only additional information requested are the details of how much these activities cost. Given that only the totals for each item of expenditure and the nature of that expenditure were asked for, this cannot be construed as personal data, or as information the disclosure of which would in any way undermine the privacy of the Commissioners. I therefore request that this refusal be re-evaluated by the Secretariat General to verify whether the invocation of Article 4.1.b was even appropriate in this case.

4) Representation costs database

With respect to representation costs, the Commission states that it “does not have any database which would permit to give you this information with the expected degree of detail” and that it would have to “search the 540 paper files manually”.
This is somewhat hard to understand given without a detailed knowledge of the Commission’s accounting system and it does seem rather surprising that there is not a digitisation of such information. It is interesting to see, however, that in spite of this lack of a database, it has been possible to provide me with very precise totals for the expenditure for each Commissioner down to the nearest eurocent. I therefore request that the Secretariat General review this situation to ascertain whether it is not in fact possible to provide a greater level of detail from the electronic accounting system.

5) Partial Access could be broader

I appreciate that the Commission has found that it is possible to provide partial access to the documents requested in line with Article 4.6 of Regulation 1049/2001. This partial access appears to be the extract of a total from a database.

In light of this possibility and in view of the arguments I raised above about the apparent existence of a database which contains this data, and doubting very much that this database only contains the totals, I hereby request that the Secretariat General explore whether it would not in fact be possible to grant me much wider partial access to this database, with the greatest level of detail possible on the expenses, item by item, category by category.

Yours faithfully,
Helen Darbishire

Executive Director
Access Info Europe

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment WRD351.jpg
0K Download

Attachment image001.png
3K Download

Attachment 2014 12 04 Confirmatory Commission Expenses AIE.DOCX.docx
118K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

Thank you for your letter dated 04/12/2015, registered on 04/12/2015. I
hereby acknowledge receipt of your a confirmatory application for access
to documents (ref.: Ares(2015)5587885  – GestDem 2015/5048).

 

In accordance with Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, you will receive a
response to your request within 15 working days (05/01/2016).

 

In case this deadline needs to be extended, you will be informed in due
course.

 

Best regards,

 

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM

[1]ec logo
European Commission
Secretariat General
Unit SG.B4 – Transparency

 

 

 

 

 

From: Helen Darbishire [mailto:[email address]]
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2015 1:34 PM
To: SG ACCES DOCUMENTS
Subject: Confirmatory Application copy

 

Dear Sir/Madam

 

Please find a copy of Confirmatory Application re your ref GestDem
2015/5430

 

A copy has been sent by AsktheEU.org and this copy is just to ensure
reciept / faciliate processing. I would be grateful if you would answer
via AsktheEU.org.

 

Yours faithfully

 

Helen

 

----------------------------------------------

Helen Darbishire

Executive Director

Access Info Europe

[2]www.access-info.org

@helen_access, @access_info

Mobile: +34 667 685 319

 

 

show quoted sections

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment image001.png
3K Download

Attachment DARBISHIRE 2015 5430 first holding letter.pdf
47K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

Please find attached a letter concerning your confirmatory application for
access to documents under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 – GESTDEM
2015/5430.

 

Best regards,

 

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM

[1]ec logo
European Commission
Secretariat General
Unit SG.B4 – Transparency

 

 

References

Visible links

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General,

Thank you for the message and the notice of the (hopefully brief) extension of the time for responding.

I look forward to receiving the response and in the meantime wish you and your team all the best for 2016.

Sincerely,

Helen Darbishire

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment image002.png
3K Download

Attachment Gestdem 2015 5430.pdf
37K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

Please find attached a letter concerning your confirmatory application for
access to documents under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 – GESTDEM
2015/5430.

 

Best regards,

 

BLURIOT-PUEBLA Madeleine

Cellule 'Accès aux documents'
 
European Commission
SG/B/4 - Transparence

BERL 05/315
B-1049 Brussels/Belgium
+32 2 296 09 97
[1][email address]

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Madeleine,

Thanks you for the update and keeping me posted.

With best regards,

Helen Darbishire

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment image001.png
3K Download

Attachment image002.gif
3K Download


Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

We are contacting you regarding your confirmatory application 2015/5430
which we are still handling. Unfortunately, the internal consultations to
take a final decision in this case are taking more time than initially
envisaged.

 

We hope, however, that we will be able to close these consultations in the
course of following weeks.  

 

We apologize for any inconvenience this extended delay may cause.

 

Regards,

 

Carlos Remis
SG.B.4
Transparence
Berl. 05/315

 

 

From: SG ACCES DOCUMENTS
Sent: Tuesday, January 26, 2016 5:12 PM
To: 'Helen Darbishire ([1][FOI #2348 email])'
Subject: Your confirmatory application for access to documents under
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 - Gestdem 2015/5430

 

Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

Please find attached a letter concerning your confirmatory application for
access to documents under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 – GESTDEM
2015/5430.

 

Best regards,

 

BLURIOT-PUEBLA Madeleine

Cellule 'Accès aux documents'
 
European Commission
SG/B/4 - Transparence

BERL 05/315
B-1049 Brussels/Belgium
+32 2 296 09 97
[2][email address]

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[FOI #2348 email]
2. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Carlos Remis

Thanks very much for your message and for keeping me updated.

Yours sincerely,

Helen

Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment image002.gif
3K Download

Attachment DARBISHIRE 2015 5430 fair solution final.pdf
148K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms. Darbishire,

Kindly find a letter concerning your confirmatory application for access
to documents pursuant to Regulation (EC) N° 1049/2001 regarding public
access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (Gestdem
2015/5430).
Yours sincerely,

Carlos Remis
SG.B.4
Transparence
Berl. 05/315

 

 

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Mr Martin Kroger / the Secretariat General,
Thank you for your message of 18 April, which arrived in the Access Info Europe office by registered mail on 25 April.
I appreciate the offer of a friendly solution with respect to my request for Commissioner’s Expenses data, namely the offer of providing data for a limited period of time given the scale of work involved in removing personal data as per your calculations.
Before agreeing to the proposed solution, I would like to ask for a clarification about the data we are talking about and the possibility of providing it rather more easily.
I preface my question with an observation. In your letter you make reference to two databases, MiPS and RepCost. Interestingly, I have another ongoing request in which have asked for information about the databases in which mission and representation expenses are stored (the request, submitted on 16 November 2015, and the related chain of messages can be found here: http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/datab.... To date, under that request, I have not been given the name of these two databases.
Having received the names of the datbases, I have been able to search online and have found information pertaining to the fields that the MIPS database contains, something I was striving to get with that 16 November 2016 request.
A document accessed here http://ec.europa.eu/dpo-register/details..., tells me that the MIPS database contains the following fields:
“Personal data (personnel number, userid, category of staff)
“Mission information (city and country names and codes of the mission(s), date/hour of departure/arrival to the mission location and return data/hour of departure/arrival to the place of assignment/origin, transportation used, budget line(s) of the assigned mission, number/code of the mission in MIPS and number of the confirmation generated at the moment of the approval, mission description, mission type, WBS code of the project the mission is linked, EU/NON EU mission, posting criteria reference linked to the mission, Global appropriation key linked to the mission, mission status code, responsible organisation of the mission)
“Cost information (estimated total cost of the mission, paid total cost of the mission, cost type, cost type description, cost type code, cost type code description, cost type group, cost type group description, commitment key linked to the mission, payment key linked to the mission, estimated transport cost, paid transport cost, estimated accommodation cost, paid accommodation cost, estimated conference cost, paid conference cost, estimated daily allowance, paid daily allowance, estimated misc cost, paid misc cost, estimated third party cost, paid third party cost, financial year of the mission.”
I have not been able to find a document giving the same level of detail on the RepCost database, although I see that it is handled by the MIPS team: http://europa.eu/whoiswho/public/index.c...
I would presume that this information in MiPS for each Commissioner could be exported to an excel sheet (possibly all of it if there is no specific search query) for each Commissioner and then the columns/rows could be supressed save those which related to my request, which would include, for example:
Mission information (city and country names and codes of the mission(s)
date/hour of departure/arrival to the mission location
return data/hour of departure/arrival to the place of assignment/origin
transportation used
paid transport cost
paid accommodation cost
paid daily allowance
paid misc cost
paid third party cost

Could you kindly confirm to me whether or not this is technically possible and whether this is the type of option that you have considered? Accounting experts I have spoken to are surprised that such an export from the database is not relatively easy. Have you calculated the time to write the search query or to export the entire database and then supress the relevant columns? This might prove to take rather less than 83 full working days.
I would also be grateful if you could kindly tell me which fields the RepCost database contains (in response to my 16 November request, which is still pending), and if you could kindly confirm whether or not it is possible to do the same kind of export from that database with respect to a similar set of fields.
Once I have your confirmation/clarification of this information, it will be possible for me to take a decision on your proposal for provision of a reduced set of data (covering a narrower timeframe).
With best regards,
Helen
---------------------
Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment image001.gif
3K Download

Attachment DARBISHIRE 2015 5430 fair solution final.pdf
148K Download View as HTML

Attachment Confirmatory application.docx
58K Download View as HTML

Attachment access to information request Commissioners Expenses 2014 and 2015.txt
1K Download View as HTML


Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

Thank you for your message. With regard to your request Gestdem 2015/6011,
please note that the reply thereto has just been sent to you by express
delivery. 

 

Concerning your question regarding the technical possibilities to extract
the data range falling under the scope of your request Gestdem 2015/5430,
I would like to refer to our proposal for a fair solution of 18 April
2016, where it has been explained that the MIPS and RepCost databases do
not include any search function enabling one to extract the requested data
through a routine query.

 

As far as the MIPS database is concerned, the requested data range is
indeed (as you point out in your message) stored in the database. However,
it is not possible to extract the information requested by means of a
routine search function. Indeed, in order to satisfy your request, it
would be necessary to:

 

                (1) develop specific scripts for that purpose, and/or

 

                (2) carry out heavy, successive manipulations in order to
extract only the requested information.

 

Please note in this respect that it has been established by the case law
of the General Court (cf.: judgement in case T-214/13) that parts of
database can only be considered as a document within the meaning of
Regulation 1049/2001 if they can be extracted through a single, routine
query. Developing, with the help of our IT support staff, a specific
script or specific scripts in order to extract the requested data range,
or carrying out heavy, successive manipulations in order to filter out the
requested information, would go beyond the definition of a 'routine query'
and would therefore be equivalent to creating a new document (or new
documents).

 

Please note in this respect that Regulation 1049/2001 applies only to the
existing documents, and that the institution cannot be obliged to create
(a) new document(s) for the purpose of replying to an access-to-documents
request.

 

The only existing documents in the Commission's possession that contain
the range of information requested by you are the summary fiches mentioned
in our proposal for a fair solution of 18 April 2016.

 

With regard to the RepCost Database, as mentioned in the note of 18 April
2016, only the global cost of each representation event is introduced into
the RepCost database. The detailed cost components are included only in
the underlying documentation such as bills and invoices, which are not
digitalised (i.e. not scanned or uploaded into the database).

 

In the light of the above, I confirm that the Commission does not hold any
documents falling under the scope of your request, other than the summary
fiches mentioned in our proposal for a fair solution of 18 April 2016.

 

We therefore kindly reiterate our request to you, to please identify, by
way of a proposal for a fair solution in the meaning of Article 6(3) of
Regulation 1049/2001, those two weeks for which you would like to obtain
the summary fiches requested.

 

Thank you in advance.

 

Kind regards,

 

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM
European Commission
Secretariat General

Unit B4 - Transparency

 

 

 

 

show quoted sections

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General,

Thank you for your message received via AsktheEU.org today.

With respect to the proposal for a fair solution for this particular request, I am ready to accept copies of documentation detailing the mission and representation expenses of each and all of the Commissioners for the period of Monday 27 April 2015 to Sunday 10 May 2015 inclusive.

I understand that this will be redacted to remove personal data. To be clear here, I do not understand the names of the Commissioners to be personal data. As set out in our exchanges, I am interested in the detailed expenditure amounts.

I note that I am accepting this solution without prejudice to my right to appeal any and all aspects of the handling and outcome of this request to the European Ombudsman and or the Court of Justice, either from a good administrative practice perspective or in defence of the right of access to documents.

I would be grateful if the documentation for the two-week period could be provided to me as soon as reasonably possible and at most within a fifteen day period, particularly given length of time that this request has taken thus far.

With best wishes for the weekend.

Yours faithfully,

Helen
Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment image001.gif
3K Download


Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

We are contacting you regarding your confirmatory application in case
2015/5430 and your message of 13 May 2016 in which you accepted our fair
solution proposal of 18 April 2016. Our reply to your confirmatory
application is being finalised.

 

Save unexpected circumstances, we expect to be able provide you that
confirmatory decision, within the coming days, following formal its
approval by the Secretary-General.

 

Thank you for your patience.

 

Kind regards,

 

Carlos Remis
SG.B.4
Transparence
Berl. 05/315

 

Link to this

From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Carlos Remis

Thank you for the update.

All the best

Helen

Helen Darbishire

Link to this

Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment Picture Device Independent Bitmap 1.jpg
1K Download

Attachment R ponse confirmative 2015 5430.pdf
220K Download View as HTML

Attachment Missions redacted.pdf
2.4M Download View as HTML

Attachment Frais de representation Redacted.pdf
3.3M Download View as HTML


Dear Mrs Darbishire,
 
Please find attached an advance information copy of the confirmatory
decision taken on your requests for access to documents registered under
Gestdem number 2015/5430, adopted on 13/07/2016 in the above-mentioned
case.
 
Enclosures:
Please note that the Secretariat General of the European Commission will
proceed with the formal notification of the decision in the coming days.
 
This advance copy is solely sent for your information and is not the
formal notification of the confirmatory decision.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
BLURIOT-PUEBLA Madeleine
Cellule 'Accès aux documents'
 
European Commission
SG/B/4 - Transparence

BERL 05/315
B-1049 Brussels/Belgium
+32 2 296 09 97
[1][email address]
 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Link to this

Things to do with this request

Anyone:
Secretariat General of the European Commission only: