This report, prepared by the Secretariat of the Procurement Complaints Committee (PCC or “the Committee”) of the European Investment Bank (EIB), provides an overview of the procurement complaints received and handled in the course of 2022, and of the work of the Committee and its Secretariat. It is the fourth annual report compiled and published on the Procurement Complaints Committee’s activity since its establishment in late 2018 .
In line with good practices of other international financial institutions, project-related procurement complaints submitted to the EIB are handled by the Procurement Complaints Committee, a specialised, independent, and impartial committee mandated to handle procurement complaints that challenge the Bank’s decision on project procurement procedures under an EIB-financed project outside the European Union. This system ensures that the Bank handles project procurement complaints regarding EIB-financed projects effectively and independently. If the complainant is not satisfied with the Bank’s outcome or response, they are entitled to escalate their complaint to the European Ombudsman for alleged maladministration by the Bank.
As per Table 1, 13 out of 18 procurement complaints (72%) were submitted prior to the Bank’s decision (non-objection). This proportion is consistent with 2021 data (18 out of 23 procurement complaints or 78% in 2021). The number of complaints that were received after the Bank’s decision is the same as in 2021 (five complaints).
In terms of sectors, most complaints concerned procurement under projects related to transport and storage, which account for 44% of the complaints (26% in 2021 and 38.7% in 2020), and water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation activities, which account for 28% of the complaints (31% in 2021). The breakdown of procurement complaints by sector does not raise concerns for any given sector, and the absolute number of complaints in each given sector does not vary substantially between 2021 and 2022.
In terms of regions of operation, most procurement complaints concerned projects in the enlargement countries (seven complaints), Asia and Latin America (four complaints) and sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (three complaints). This is consistent with 2021 data where procurement complaints were related to projects in the enlargement countries (six complaints), followed by Asia and Latin America (five complaints) and sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (three complaints). While most procurement complaints in 2021 were related to projects in the EU Eastern Neighbourhood (seven complaints), the number of complaints for projects in this region dropped to two procurement complaints in 2022; this change can be partly explained by fewer complaints from Ukraine since the outbreak of the war.
In terms of subject matter, no specific issue stood out. However, the most common allegations were a flawed technical evaluation or selection process in relation to technical requirements, and allegations related to the requisite level of professional/technical qualifications.
Of the five complaints reviewed by the Procurement Complaints Committee, four complainants were based in the countries where the projects were located.
The PCC Secretariat also received a complaint regarding a project in an EU Member State (not registered by the Secretariat). In line with the EIB’s Guide to Procurement, projects within the European Union are implemented by the relevant contracting authorities and monitored by the Member States’ competent controlling bodies as they are subject to EU law. Therefore, in this case, the Secretariat referred the complainant to the competent national remedy mechanism(s) and/or judicial bodies.
The response time for procurement complaints lodged after the Bank’s non-objection to contract award and prior to the signature of contracts was mostly in line with the Bank’s policy (Annex 8 to the Guide to Procurement for projects financed by the EIB). Complainants received the Committee’s reply and decision within the period specified in the Guide to Procurement (30 days, with the possibility of being extended to 60 days), except in three cases; in one case the reply was submitted after 63 days and in another two cases after 91 days due to the complexity of these cases.
The PCC Secretariat always informs complainants that if they are not satisfied with the Bank’s response, they are entitled to escalate their complaint to the European Ombudsman for alleged maladministration by the Bank. No complaints were escalated to the European Ombudsman in 2022.
Most of the complaints were submitted through the dedicated mailbox (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Procurement Complaints Committee appears to have become more widely known as the main entry point for potential procurement complainants via its website. The Committee’s privacy statement providing information on the handling of personal data in the context of its activities since 2020 is also available on this website. This statement was developed in close cooperation with the Bank’s Data Protection Officer.
As in previous years, the PCC Secretariat received emails that were not necessarily related to project procurement at the EIB but that may present issues falling within the mandates of the Inspectorate General Investigations Division (IG/IN) or the Complaints Mechanism (IG/CM). The Secretariat’s position within the Inspectorate General facilitates communication and cooperation as well as the transfer of complaints to the Investigations Division concerning allegations of prohibited conduct and to the Complaints Mechanism for non-procurement-related complaints.
Building on lessons learned, the PCC Secretariat also revisited certain practices and documents related to the Committee’s internal process to ensure that all procurement complaints are administered in an efficient manner throughout the process life cycle and that complainants receive timely answers from the PCC (this task will continue in 2023). The Secretariat also monitors whether the EIB services concerned take the necessary follow-up action in the case of procurement complaints lodged prior to the Bank’s decision.
For 2023, the PCC Secretariat will continue to revisit specific aspects of its procedures with a view to further improving the Procurement Complaints Committee’s way of working. Lessons learned during 2022 could help improve the overall process in terms of time management, while maintaining a high review standard.
The Secretariat will continue to work with the Bank’s Data Protection Officer to ensure that the Committee’s and the Secretariat’s work remain compliant with the applicable data protection rules, taking into account any developments in the legal framework.