The Commission's most important asset is its staff. However, no organisation
is immune to the risk of untoward conduct on the part of individuals. This
may range from officials who do not discharge their duties satisfactorily
to staff who behave corruptly or fraudulently. Therefore the Commission
has endeavoured to place the whole sphere of professional underperformance,
discipline, wrongdoing and the reporting of wrongdoing on a new footing.
The aim was to ensure that untoward developments are redetected as soon
as possible and that effective but fair and consistent disciplinary measures
can quickly take effect.
Commissioners are required to discharge their duties in the general interest of the Community and neither seek nor take instructions from any government or from any other body (e.g. not to engage in any other professional activity, whether paid or unpaid). The Barroso Commission adopted a code of conduct for Commissioners at its first meeting on 24 November 2004.
The disciplinary system within the Commission administration applies to serious wrongdoing, in particular corruption, fraud and conduct constituting a criminal offence under national law. More efficient disciplinary procedures have been established, as well as appropriate sanctions, for staff who are found to have broken the rules. The Commission is making major improvements to existing disciplinary procedures, including the creation of a permanent secretariat for the Disciplinary Board (to establish consistency).
If staff believe they have significant evidence of possible fraud, corruption or any other illegal activity, they should pass it on to clearly specified authorities whose duty will be to act on it. Staff have the same obligation to pass on evidence of unprofessional behaviour that could end in disciplinary or criminal proceedings. Obviously, people must not suffer in any unfair or discriminatory way for whistleblowing. The Commission has put procedures in place that are fair to whistleblowers and protect their interests as well as those of people they accuse and identify.
Article 22 of the Staff Regulations stipulates that an official may be required to make good , in whole or in part, any damage suffered by the Communities as a result of serious misconduct on her/his part in connection with the performance of her/his duties. More
The key aspects of this context are poor level of performance, such as poor timekeeping or working to rule. Hitherto, the only disciplinary procedures available were those applicable in the case of serious wrongdoing (see above). Consequently, management often failed to take action against it or, if it did and disciplinary proceedings were initiated, this was tantamount to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. New guidelines for dealing with underperformance are now in force.
The provisions on former and current officials' rights and obligations must be made clearer, to avoid conflicts of interest (outside activities, business interests etc.). A clear set of rules on the rights and obligations of civil servants has been decided covering limits to official's freedom of speech, harassment and absence from service.