2.4.14. Ethics clauses

Any attempt by a candidate, applicant or tenderer to obtain confidential information, enter into unlawful agreements with competitors whose aim or effect is to impede, restrain or distort competition in a given market, or influence the evaluation committee or the contracting authority during the process of examining, clarifying, evaluating and comparing tenders and applications will lead to the rejection of its candidacy, proposal or tender.

When putting forward an application or a tender, the applicant or the tenderer must declare that it has no potential conflict of interest (see definition and applicable principles in point 2.3.6. above) and no equivalent relation in that respect with other tenderers or parties involved in the project. Should such a situation arise during performance of the contract, the contractor must immediately inform the contracting authority.

The exclusion of a candidate, tenderer or applicant for the above reasons will be done in accordance with the rules and procedures mentioned in point 2.3.3. above.

Civil servants or other staff of the public administration of the partner country, or of international/regional organisations based in the country, shall only be proposed as experts by tenderers if they comply with the requirements in section 3.3.10.3. of the Practical Guide. Same applies to local staff from EU Delegations.

Without the contracting authority's written authorisation, a contractor and its staff or any other company with which the contractor is associated or linked may not, even on an ancillary or subcontracting basis, supply other services, carry out works or supply equipment for the project.

This prohibition also applies to any other programmes or projects that could, owing to the nature of the contract, give rise to a conflict of interest on the part of the contractor or grant beneficiary.

The contractor must at all time act impartially and as a faithful adviser in accordance with the code of conduct of its profession. It must refrain from making public statements about the project or services without the contracting authority's prior authorisation. It may not commit the contracting authority in any way without its prior written consent.

The contractor and its staff must comply with human rights and undertake not to offend the political, cultural and religious mores of the country(ies) where the action is implemented. In particular and in accordance with the applicable basic act, tenderers and applicants who have been awarded contracts must comply with core labour standards as applicable and as defined in the relevant International Labour Organisation conventions (such as the Conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining; Elimination of forced and compulsory labour; Abolition of child labour).

The contractor may accept no payment connected with the contract other than that provided for therein. The contractor and its staff must not exercise any activity or receive any advantage inconsistent with their obligations to the contracting authority.

The contractor and its staff are bound to maintain professional secrecy for the entire duration of the contract and after its completion. All reports and documents drawn up or received by the contractor during the performance of the contract are confidential.

The contract governs the contracting parties' use of all reports and documents drawn up, received or presented by them during the performance of the contract.

The contractor must refrain from any relationship likely to compromise its independence or that of its staff. If the contractor ceases to be independent, the contracting authority may, regardless of injury, terminate the contract without further notice and without the contractor having any claim to compensation.

The European Commission reserves the right to suspend or cancel project financing if corrupt practices of any kind are discovered at any stage of the award process or implementation of the contract and if the contracting authority fails to take all appropriate measures to remedy the situation. For the purposes of this provision, 'corrupt practices' are the offer of a bribe, gift, gratuity or commission to any person as an inducement or reward for performing or refraining from any act relating to the award of a contract or implementation of a contract already concluded with the contracting authority.

More specifically, all tender dossiers and contracts for works, supplies and services must include a clause stipulating that tenders will be rejected or contracts terminated if it emerges that the award or execution of a contract has given rise to unusual commercial expenses.

Such unusual commercial expenses are commissions not mentioned in the main contract or not stemming from a properly concluded contract referring to the main contract, commissions not paid in return for any actual and legitimate service, commissions remitted to a tax haven, commissions paid to a recipient who is not clearly identified or commissions paid to a company which has every appearance of being a front company.

The contractor undertakes to supply the European Commission on request with all supporting documents relating to the conditions of the contract's execution. The European Commission may carry out whatever documentary or on-the-spot checks it deems necessary to find evidence in cases of suspected unusual commercial expenses.

Contractors found to have paid unusual commercial expenses on projects funded by the EU are liable, depending on the seriousness of the facts noted, to have their contracts terminated or to be permanently excluded from receiving EU funds.

Failure to comply with one or more of the ethics clauses may result in the exclusion of the candidate, applicant, tenderer or contractor from other EU contracts and in penalties. The individual or company/entity in question must be informed of the fact in writing.

It is the obligation of the contracting authority to ensure that the procurement or the grant award procedure is concluded in a transparent manner, based on objective criteria and disregarding any possible external influences.

Fight against fraud

The European Commission is utterly committed to fight and mitigate fraud, corruption or other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the European Union. In this context, the development of an anti-fraud culture among all the stakeholders is of great importance.

On 24 June 2011, the Commission adopted its new Anti-Fraud Strategy (CAFS)25, its overall objective being to improve prevention, detection and the conditions for investigations of fraud and to achieve appropriate reparation and deterrence, especially by introducing anti-fraud strategies at Commission Service level.

DEVCO's anti-fraud strategy26 and a related action plan came into effect in January 2014.

On the basis of CAFS, the Directorates-General and Services working in the field of external actions have further developed their specific anti-fraud strategies.

An important factor in combatting fraud is staff awareness and an effective system of reporting indications of fraud and irregularities.

The EU Staff Regulations27 set out an obligation to report serious irregularities for any official who becomes aware of:

  • facts which give rise to a presumption of possible illegal activity, including fraud or corruption, detrimental to the interests of the EU;

  • conduct relating to the discharge of professional duties which may constitute a serious failure to comply with the obligations of EU officials.

A pivotal role in the Commission's anti-fraud approach is foreseen for the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)28. While fraud prevention and detection is primarily the responsibility of each Head of a Commission Service (as appropriate in each management mode), OLAF plays an important role throughout the process. Where fraud, corruption or other irregularities concerning EU funds is suspected, the anti-fraud office of the European Commission (i.e. OLAF) has to be informed29.

Set up in 1999 with a view to expanding the scope and enhancing the effectiveness of action to combat fraud and other illegal activities detrimental to the EU's interests, OLAF achieves its mission by conducting:

  • external investigations relating to expenditure and revenue under the Budget/EDF;

  • internal administrative investigations concerning staff of the EU institutions.

OLAF makes its investigations independently and in compliance with the cooperation agreements in force in third countries. It cooperates actively with its partners in the EU Member States and third countries.

Following its investigation, OLAF makes a report indicating its findings and recommendations. The competent responsible authorising officer by sub-delegation shall ensure the financial follow-up, vis-à-vis the recovery of amounts wrongly paid, in cooperation with OLAF.


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25 http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/documents/preventing-fraud-documents/ec_antifraud_strategy_en.pdf
26https://myintracomm.ec.europa.eu/dg/devco/finance-contracts-legal/audit/fraud-irregularities/Documents/devco_anti_fraud_strategy.pdf.
27http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CONSLEG:1962R0031:20140101:EN:PDF See article 22(a), p 24.
28 http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/index_en.htm.
29As per Article 8 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 883/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 September 2013 concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1073/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Council Regulation (Euratom) No 1074/1999.