The Ombudsman inquiry into the Fee’s dealing with of a request for textual content messages between its President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical firm is a wake-up name for all EU establishments about guaranteeing accountability in an period of immediate messaging.
One yr after the preliminary request by a journalist, the Fee has nonetheless not clarified whether or not messages reported to concern main vaccine procurement offers exist and whether or not the general public is entitled to see them.
The Ombudsman had requested the Fee, in a discovering of maladministration in January, to conduct a extra thorough seek for the textual content messages.
The Fee’s current response didn’t say whether or not it had appeared instantly and accurately for the textual content messages and if not, why not.
Whereas the response recognised that work-related textual content messages might be EU paperwork, it reiterated that the Fee’s inner coverage is, in impact, to not register textual content messages.
“The Fee’s response to my findings neither answered the fundamental query of whether or not the textual content messages in query exist nor supplied any readability on how the Fee would reply to a selected request for different textual content messages,” mentioned Emily O’Reilly.
“The dealing with of this entry to paperwork request leaves the regrettable impression of an EU establishment that isn’t forthcoming on issues of serious public curiosity.”
“Public entry to work-related textual content messages is a brand new space for the EU administration and one which must be tackled substantively and in good religion. This inquiry is a wake-up name to all EU establishments.”
“The current revelations about lobbying ways by an American multinational in Europe, together with leaked textual content messages, exhibits the urgency of this subject for public administrations.” mentioned the Ombudsman.
Suggestions for recording work-related textual content messages
Individually, after gathering info on the foundations and practices on the recording of textual content and immediate messages throughout the EU administration, the Ombudsman is immediately publishing sensible suggestions for coping with this subject.
The suggestions (see full record right here) say that:
- Work-related textual content and immediate messages needs to be recognised as EU paperwork.
- Technological options needs to be put in place to allow the simple recording of such messages.
- Workers ought to have clear steering on how such messages needs to be recorded.
- Requests for public entry to paperwork that would cowl textual content messages needs to be handled in a manner that considers all areas the place such messages is perhaps saved.
In April 2021, the New York Occasions printed an article wherein it reported that the Fee President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical firm had exchanged texts associated to the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. This prompted a journalist to request public entry to textual content messages and different paperwork referring to the change. The complainant turned to the Ombudsman after the Fee had not recognized any textual content messages as falling inside the scope of his request.
The Ombudsman inquiry revealed that the Fee didn’t explicitly ask the President’s cupboard to search for textual content messages. As an alternative, it requested her cupboard to search for paperwork that fulfil the Fee’s inner standards for recording – textual content messages aren’t thought of to fulfill these standards. The Ombudsman discovered that this amounted to maladministration and requested it to do a extra in depth analysis for the textual content messages.
Regulation 1049/2001, which units out the general public’s proper to entry EU paperwork, defines a doc as “any content material no matter its medium (written on paper or saved in digital kind or as a sound, visible or audiovisual recording) regarding a matter referring to the insurance policies, actions and choices falling inside the establishment’s sphere of accountability”.