Cancellation of EPSO AST-154-2022 competition: The “Chronicle of a death foretold”
EPSO’s Director has decided to cancel Competition EPSO/AST/154/22 – Assistants (AST3), Accounting, Finance and Communication, with the support of EPSO’s governing body, the interinstitutional Management Board.
On 31 March 2023, EPSO announced widely “the foretold death” of competition AST-154-2022. It decided the final cancellation of this competition and published it on its website1 . EPSO also informed candidates that the results obtained by them would no longer be valid or transferrable in the future in other competitions. A slam in the face of those who after days of preparation had to “pay for the errors of others”. The first fully online- and remotely performed- competition turned into a huge failure and a waste of enormous amounts of time and money for individual European Tax-paying citizens (including hundreds of colleagues in EU institutions), for EPSO and all other involved people, including tens of colleagues who worked massively as panel members.
How did we get to this point? Was that a surprise?
As the title shows, for some of us this was even expected.
EPSO organised a fully online, remote competition without proper preparation, without an actual assessment of what this new scheme would mean and what the requirements to participate would imply for the candidates, demonstrating itself completely detached from the everyday reality of European citizens.
Needless to say that EPSO did everything relying on an external contractor who demonstrated also not to be at the height of this situation.
Indeed, several candidates were complaining that their results were lost and only after these complains, their results were finally found, not to mention the rude and impolite way some candidates were treated leading in excessive stress during the moment of their testing.
The European Commission Central Staff Committee (responsible also for the nomination of some of the selection panel members forthis competition’s board) being fully concerned of how this competition was evolving, rang the bell on EPSO and DG-HR2 already mid-december 2022, listing all issues with regards to disrespect of candidates privacy, equal opportunities of candidates, competition time slots allocated in the middle of the night, US-toll phone line for complaints etc.
EPSO and DG-HR replied on 17 January 20233 denying any major concern and defending this type of competition as an own “strategic choice” … this, notwithstanding the 967 complaints and questions (out of 5693 candidates who booked for the online testing).
Concerning the Offices, for DG HR everything is fine, everything is very fine…
As it often happens, the concerns raised by the staff representation were not given the appropriate attention, by EPSO and DG HR, which could have helped save this competition.
DG HR’s attitude concerning these complains made by the staff representation was not at all surprising because it is now very clear that DG HR is absolutely incapable of ensuring any kind of governance of the Offices. This, when it is absolutely his responsibility to.
DG HR’s speciality is now to answer any complain confirming that everything is just fine, to refuse any real social dialogue, to play the advocate pro deo of the Office Directors, denying all the problems that can still be denied and trivialising those that in the meantime it has become impossible to continue to deny… trying to calm things down in the hope that the storm might pass … to start again as if nothing had happened.
Unfortunately, for this competition, the storm did not pass and, on the contrary, it exploded in all its gravity…
The “final nail in the coffin”: AST-154-2022 competition cancelled
Indeed, we were glad to see the European Ombudsman on 17 March 2023 opening a formal investigation4 raising the same issues that staff representation raised, requiring an answer by mid-June 2023 and announcing possible follow-up after these answers.
EPSO evidently unable to save the competition at this late stage decided to cancel it, a decision that can legally take, but…
- the individuals who had succeeded in the competition so far?
- those citizens who had decided to invest on new PCs and training in order to succeed in this competition and eventually succeeded?
- the future credibility of EPSO?
- the EU Institutions’ reputation?
For the afore-mentioned reasons, on behalf of the candidates, R&D requests:
A revision of the decision of the Appointing Authority. EPSO should find a legal way to allow successful candidates to maintain the successful results in future competitions.
That DG HR must re-establish some capacity for governance of the Offices including, in cooperation with the other institutions, for EPSO.
That EPSO should finally discover what it mean to be “fully accountable” and the obligation to take into account the “lessons learned”, stopping once for all to use candidates as guinea pig…
That EPSO should give evidence of being able to respect European Tax Payers, to guarantee a perfect implementation of any external contract and to attribute responsibilities to those who must and deserve to be responsible.
If European Institutions want to hire the BEST EUROPEAN TALENTS, as a minimum, they should be able to treat them in the BEST possible way. Nothing less than that!
3. Note Ares(2023)356282