Database containing Commissioner's Expeneses

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, and in a follow-up to request http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/commi... ,
I am requesting the following documents:

Documents which will provide me with information about the financial management system by which the Commissioner's expenses are processed and the database in which the data on expenses is held. In particular, I am interested in obtaining:
- a guidance manual or other instruction document or memo that explains by whom and how expenses are processed, including at which point and how and in which format and level of detail expenses claims are input into the electronic database system.
- a summary document or guidance manual or other relevant document on the database in which Commissioner's expense are processed/stored, which contains details on the structure of the database, including the fields that it contains.

In the event of this request not being sufficiently clear and/or the potential volume of information being large, please do not hesitate to contact me in order to clarify/refine the request.

Yours faithfully,

Helen Darbishire (Ms)

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Secretariat General of the European Commission

Dear Ms Darbishire,

Thank you for your email.

Could you please confirm your postal address:

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

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

European Commission
Secretariat General
Unit SG.B.4 (Rc) – Transparency

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Good morning European Commission!

It is indeed.

All the best

Helen Darbishire

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment RE access to information request Database containing Commissioner s Expeneses.txt
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Dear Madam,

Thank you for your email dated 17/11/2015.

We hereby acknowledge receipt of your application for access to documents, which was registered on 17/11/2015 under reference number GestDem 2015/6011.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, your application will be handled within 15 working days.

The time limit will expire on 08/12/2015. In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.

Yours faithfully,

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

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From: EC ARES NOREPLY
Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Veuillez trouver ci-joint le document Ares(2015)5632688 concernant "access to information request - Database containing Commissioner's Expeneses - Ref. Gestdem 2015/6011 -répondre pour 7-12-2015" envoyé par M/Mme ve_pmo mail le 07/12/2015.

Please find attached document Ares(2015)5632688 regarding "access to information request - Database containing Commissioner's Expeneses - Ref. Gestdem 2015/6011 -répondre pour 7-12-2015" sent by Mr/Ms ve_pmo mail on 07/12/2015.

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Remarque : Cet e-mail a été généré automatiquement par le système d'enregistrement central du courrier de la Commission européenne.
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From: EC ARES NOREPLY
Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Veuillez trouver ci-joint le document Ares(2015)5632688 concernant "access to information request - Database containing Commissioner's Expeneses - Ref. Gestdem 2015/6011 -répondre pour 7-12-2015" envoyé par M/Mme ve_pmo mail le 07/12/2015.

Please find attached document Ares(2015)5632688 regarding "access to information request - Database containing Commissioner's Expeneses - Ref. Gestdem 2015/6011 -répondre pour 7-12-2015" sent by Mr/Ms ve_pmo mail on 07/12/2015.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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 ANASTASSIADI Nia (PMO) (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 ANASTASSIADI Nia (PMO) (mailto:[email address]).

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Marc Lemaitre / Nia Anastassiadi / Helen Triby / Commission,

Your ref: Gestdem 2015/6011

Thank you for your message asking that I clarify my request for access to documents.

First I note that, contrary to the summary in your letter, my request is focused on mission and representation expenses, as per the other related request on AsktheEU.org to which I gave a reference in a hyperlink.

So the first clarification/narrowing of my request is that that is my focus. I am not at this juncture interested in salaries nor in medical expenses.

I would be grateful if, as a start, you could provide a simple listing of the databases that you hold for these types of expenses. That would have been useful to include in this response so as to aid me in narrowing this request.

Then you could tell me what core documentation you have on each of those databases.

Another focus would be, in the first instance, to provide me with information about how mission expenses are processed and stored. If you were also able to provide me with the same information about representation costs, that would be great.

I note that I am seeking to obtain this information and these documents in order to defend my TFEU right of access to documents, and in particular to find out how public funds are being spent on expenses, and therefore that there is a strong public interest at play.

As a further matter, the 15 working day time limit for my request began when you registered it on 17 November 2015, and hence you were due to answer me on 8 December. Given that the request for clarification came on 7 December 2015, it is of concern that you state in the 7 December letter that the 15 working days will only commence once the request has been clarified. It seems to me that 14 working days have already elapsed and that if you are going to take more time than this, we should be talking about an extension.

Please kindly let me know as soon as possible if my request is now sufficiently clear. I will endeavour to speak to the suggested point of contact person early next week to verify this. Do not hesitate to contact me again via AsktheEU.org or by phone (my number is on the Access Info website) in order to further clarify this request.

Yours sincerely,

Helen

HELEN DARBISHIRE
ACCESS INFO EUROPE

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General,

I am hereby submitting a confirmatory application with respect to my request for information about the database containing Commissioners' Expenses data, which can be found here: http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/datab...

I have not received an answer to my clarification of 11 December (following your request for clarificaiton of 7 December). My clarification you be found here: http://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/datab...

I tried once in December and at various moments over the course of January to phone the number I was given in the letter of 7 December but either got an occupied tone (December) or no reply.

As my request was sent on 17 November, and my clarification on 11 December, the request is now siginificantly overdue. I am highly interested in receiving the requested information as soon as possible and hence would appreciate speedly processing of the request. I would be most grateful to receive an acknowledgement of receipt of this confirmatory application.

Yours faithfully,

Helen Darbishire
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
ACCESS INFO EUROPE

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Secretariat General of the European Commission

Dear Ms Darbishire,

Thank you for your email dated 28/01/2016, registered on 28/01/2016. I hereby acknowledge receipt of your a confirmatory application for access to documents (ref.: Ares(2016)469759 – GestDem 2015/6011).

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 (18/02/2016).

In case 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

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From: EC ARES NOREPLY
Secretariat General of the European Commission


Attachment COMM PDF C 2011 2904 F EN DECISION DE LA COMMISSION.pdf
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Attachment 16 02 12 Access to documents H Darbishire.pdf
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Attachment C 2008 6215 F1 DECISION SUI GENERIS EN V100 P1 423919.pdf
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Dear Ms Darbishire,

Please find encosed the reply from Ms Fernanda SERRA, Head of Unit Mission service, to your requested Access to document Ares(2016)767823 regarding "GESTDEM 2015/6011".

Kind regards,
Dameria Dufays

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Dear Ms Darbishire,

 

Please find attached the reply concerning your submission of a
confirmatory application pursuant to Regulation (EC) N° 1049/2001
regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission
documents, ref: GestDem 2015/6011.

 

NB: by email only.

 

Best regards,

 

Bernadett BERCZELI

Access to Documents
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European Commission
Secretariat General
Unit SG.B4 – Transparency

 

 

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General

This is a second confirmatory application related to my request about the database containing Commissioner's expenses. My request of 16 November 2015. Your ref GestDem 2015/6011.

My principle complaint is that, although two documents were sent to me on 12 February 2016, I have not been provided with documents containing information that remotely begins to answer my request.

I am also concerned about the excessive time being taken to process and respond to this request and I ask that this be evaluated as well.

I will summarise here what I asked for. I asked initially for "Documents which will provide me with information about the financial management system by which the Commissioner's expenses
are processed and the database in which the data on expenses is held." With respect to the first part of the request, I stipulated that I sought documents that would provide information on "in which format and level of detail expenses claims are input into the electronic database system."

In my subsequent clarification, I made clear that my request could be satisfied by
- a simple listing of the databases that you hold for [mission and represntation] expenses .
- the core documentation on each of those databases.
- documents that explain how such expenses are processed and stored

It is clear from the requests that I am seeking documents related to the databases in which Commissioners' expenses on mission and representation costs are held. Having consulted with IT experts, I can confirm that the commonly understood definition of a "database" means an electronic storage of data, which could range from a simple excel sheet to an off-the-shelf accounting system to a more complex bespoke database with a specifically-designed interface for entering and processing data. Additional terms could be "IT system" or "accounting system" or "financial management system". Hence the fact that I also asked about the financial management system. In general, the fact that I was talking about an electronic storgae system should also be clear from the fact that I asked for documents that would set out which fields the database(s) contain(s).

In this light of this clear request for information about the Commission's electronic storage system, I am surprised that, after two months, what I have been provided with is two documents, both of which are already public, which neither contain any of the requested information nor relate to the electronic financial management systems / databases used for processing and storing data on expenses claims.

These documents are the Code of Conduct of Commissioners (C(2011) 2904) and the General implementing provisions adopting the Guide to missions for officials and other servants of the European Commission (C(2008) 6215). The former does not contain the word "database"; the latter contains it once with relation to the hotel database that should be used to book hotels. Both documents refer to what information should be submitted with expenses claims, but neither document provides any information on how expenses claims are processed or stored electronically. Hence the documents provided do not fit within the scope of my initial request and do not provide me with any of the information that I was seeking.

In the process of evaluating this confirmatory application, I would be grateful if the Secretariat General would look into the documents held by the PMO (the Office for the Administration and Payment of Individual Entitlements) as well as other relevant offices and departments, that relate to the electronic systems ("applications", "databases" "IT systems") by which data on mission and representation expenses are processed and stored. I would like to receive, as previously requested, a list of the relevant databases, as well as documents on the use, functioning, and structure of these databases.

I am submitting this second confirmatory application out of a good faith effort to ensure that my request is clear and to endevour to secure the requested documents as soon as possible, without needing to make an appeal to the European Ombudsman.

I urge you to contact me, via email or telephone, for any further clarifications, or to discuss which documents might fall within the scope of my request in order that you can provide me with the documents that are directly relevant to my request.

Yours faithfully,

Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Dear Ms Darbishire,
 
We are contacting you regarding your message of 17 February 2016, which is
your reaction to the reply to your request for access to documents
registered under the reference number GestDem 2015/6011, provided by PMO
on 12 February 2016.
 
In your initial application, submitted on 16 November 2016 you requested
access to documents which would provide [you] with information about the
financial management system by which the Commissioner's expenses are
processed and the database in which the data on expenses is held. You also
mentioned that you were interested in particular, in obtaining:
 
- a guidance manual or other instruction document or memo that explains by
whom and how expenses are processed, including at which point and how and
in which format and level of detail expenses claims are input into the
electronic database system;
 
- a summary document or guidance manual or other relevant document on the
database in which Commissioner's expense are processed/stored, which
contains details on the structure of the database, including the fields
that it contains.
 
On 11 December 2015, you clarified that your request of 16 November 2015
was focused on documents and information regarding Commissioners' missions
and representation costs. This clarification was provided through the
AsktheEU.org service and apparently was not forwarded to the service
within the PMO that actually dealt with the request. This is the reason
why the reply to your initial request was provided with a significant
delay.
 
The documents provided by PMO on 12 February, i.e. the Guide to the
missions and the Code of Conduct, describe the framework for processing
mission and representation costs reimbursement claims. They contain rules
and principles such as reimbursement eligibility criteria and the
reimbursement limits and determine how the above-mentioned expenses are
processed.
 
From your latest message of 17 February 2016, we understand that you are
interested in receiving access to more detailed technical documentation of
the applications that the Commission uses for processing such
reimbursement claims.
 
Please note that, the IT system used for that purpose (ABAC) is used by
all Commission services, and therefore the identification of the documents
that fall under the scope of your request (i.e. underlying technical
documentation) has to be carried out by the Commission service which is
the system owner for that system (DG BUDG). Given that, in the light if
your explanations included in your message of 17 February 2016, it seems
that the assessment of the documents identified as falling under the scope
of your request fall under the responsibility of a different service than
the one which provided you with an initial reply, and that these documents
have not yet formed the subject to any assessment at initial stage, we
suggest that we consider your message of 17 February 2016 as a new
(initial) request, which will be attributed to the service responsible for
the system in question (DG BUDG) for appropriate follow-up. This will
ensure the fastest possible treatment of your reply by the service which
holds the Commission's expertise in this field.
 
Should you not consider the reply of DG BUDG to be satisfactory, you will
of course be free to introduce a new confirmatory request.
 
May we ask you to please let us know by Friday 19 February 2016 (eob)
whether you agree with the proposed approach?
 
Thank you in advance and kind 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]
 

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General, Dear Ms Bluriot-Puebla,

Thank you for your rapid response to my confirmatory application and your readiness to help get this request answered, particularly given some of the internal/administrative challenges that you have had in finding the appropriate unit to answer it.

I have considered your proposal to start a new request based on my clarifications but I do believe that these are clarifications rather than a new request.

Going back to my original request, I still believe that it is sufficiently clear and that it has not yet been addressed.
In the first instance, when asking for "a guidance manual or other instruction document or memo that explains by whom and how expenses are processed" I specifically elaborated that I was interested in knowing "at which point and how and in which format and level of detail expenses claims are input into the electronic database system." It baffles me how the documents provided by the PMO could be considered by anyone as responding in full to that request, since the documents that were provided to me in no way contain data on the format and level of detail in which expense claims are input into the electronic database system.

Similarly, to date, no documents have been provided that attempt to respond to the second part of the original application, which refers to "a summary document or guidance manual or other relevant document on the database in which Commissioner's expense are processed/stored, which contains details on the structure of the database, including the fields that it contains." I have shown my request to various people (both IT experts, people with request experience, and others with less specialist knowledge) asking them if it seems clear what I am asking and I have not found any problem with it.

I am also rather surprised that, given my request and the various clarifications, the person or persons at the PMO handling it, did not grasp what I was looking for. I would presume that there are people in the PMO who know about the database into which expense claims from EU commissioners are entered and how these claims are handled. Be that as it may, if they did not know, the appropriate response would have been to forward the request rather than providing me with documents that do not satisfy it.

From the right of access to documents perspective, it is important that the Commission as a whole entity responds to requests for documents. The maximum time frame of 15 working days established by Regulation 1049/2001 is supposed to be just that, a maximum, irrespective of the fact that different departments might hold the documents that fall within the scope of the request. The purpose of the clarifications exercise is to help find the right documents, but does not negate the fact that there is a maximum time frame (with extensions being reserved for exceptional cases).

We are here talking about some relatively basic information about the database(s) that hold(s) information on the mission and representation expenditures of the 28 most prominent people in the European Commission (the Commissioners). You have now helpfully informed me that it is called the ABAC system. From Googling this, I see that the ABAC system is both a financial management approach as well as a software (ABAC/SAP). If this is where the details on expenses are entered -- we could take as a representative example the purchase of a flight or the bill for a hotel stay -- then that is what I am interested in knowing about. Please note, in order to avoid further confusion and delays and to minimise workload, that I am primarily interested in the documents on the level of detail entered into that system and the fields that the database contains insofar as they relate to particular types of expenses; a quick search on line tells me that ABAC is used for many types of accounting and that is not what I want to know about. You could imagine framing the question thus "If we export data on Commissioners' mission expenses from ABAC into an excel sheet, what level of detail will it contain and which fields?". I think that is something that DG Budget will understand pretty easily.

In conclusion, I maintain that my original request has not yet been answered. I note that quite a bit of time has passed (two months). I respectfully ask that the Commission answer my request as soon as possible. I would be grateful if you could acknowledge receipt of this message, and kindly let me know how you plan to proceed and what the time frame might be.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

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Secretariat General of the European Commission

Dear Madam,

Thank you for your email dated 17/02/2016.

We hereby acknowledge receipt of your confirmatory application for access to documents, which was registered on 22/02/2016 under reference number GestDem 2015/6011 – Ares(2016)912395.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, your application will be handled within 15 working days.

The time limit will expire on 14/03/2016. In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.

Yours faithfully,

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

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Dear Ms  Darbishire,

 

Please find attached a letter concerning your request for access to
documents under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 - GESTDEM No 2015/6011

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

TEAM ACCESS DOCUMENTS
[1]cid:image001.gif@01D10B5D.0CD08030
European Commission
Secretariat General

Unit B4 - Transparency

 

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Mr Kröger,

Thank you very much for the update. I look forward to receiving your response in due course and have noted the date.

With best regards

Helen Darbishire
Access Info

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Dear Ms Darbishire,

Please find attached a letter concerning your confirmatory application for
access to documents under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 - GESTDEM
No 2016/6011

Yours sincerely,

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM
European Commission
Secretariat General

Unit B4 - Transparency

 

 

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Mr Kröger,

Thank you for the update on the status of this request.

Given the amount of time that is passing since I presented the initial request, I do hope that it will be possible to send me a response relatively soon as I have a strong interest in obtaining this information, inter alia, in order to be able to formulate other requests and hence to continue to exercise my right of access to documents as set out in the EU treaties.

Yours sincerely,

Helen Darbishire
Access Info

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Dear Madam,

 

Please find attached an advance information copy of the confirmatory
decision taken on your request for access to documents registered under
Gestdem number 2015/6011, adopted on 29/04/2016 in the above-mentioned
case.

 

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,

 

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

 

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Secretariat General / Carlos Remis

Thank you very much for the response to this request.

I would be most grateful if you could provide the attached documentation in electronic format (ideally machine-readable), as per Article 10.1 of Regulation 1049, sent to this email address.

Yours sincerely,
Helen
----------------------
Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

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Secretariat General of the European Commission


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Dear Ms Darbishire,

Please find attached an advance information copy of the confirmatory decision and the 2 annexes taken on your request for access to documents registered under Gestdem number 2015/6011.

Yours sincerely,


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

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From: Helen Darbishire

Delivered

Dear Carlos Remis
Thank you!
best regards,
Helen
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Helen Darbishire
Access Info Europe

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