Instruction No. 51 of 10 June 2006 on internal inquiries

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe;

CONSIDERING that rules should be adopted for the conduct of inquiries concerning breaches of the Organisation’s internal rules;

CONSIDERING that, although some of these inquiries may result in the institution of disciplinary proceedings under Part VI of the Staff Regulations and the Regulations on disciplinary proceedings (Appendix X to the Staff Regulations), the two procedures are independent from each other – the inquiries, should they be ordered, preceding the disciplinary proceedings;

HAVING CONSULTED the Staff Committee, in accordance with Article 5 paragraph 3 of the Regulations on staff participation (Appendix I to the Staff Regulations);

DECIDES AS FOLLOWS:

1.       a.       The Secretary General, if s/he has reasonable cause to believe that there has been a breach of the Organisation’s internal rules, may instruct the Director General of Administration and Logistics to conduct, together with one or several other staff member(s), an inquiry in order to establish the relevant facts and make recommendations in this connection. The Secretary General shall set a time-limit for the completion of the inquiry (of up to three months), which s/he may extend in duly justified cases.

b.       The Staff Committee shall be informed of the opening of such an inquiry and the time-limit set by the Secretary General for its completion.

2.       a. No staff member, including the Director General of Administration and Logistics, may be instructed to conduct an inquiry into facts that may engage his/her responsibility under the disciplinary rules of the Organisation. A staff member entrusted with an inquiry must immediately report to the Secretary General any conflict of interest that may arise in this connection.

b. In case of a conflict of interest under the previous paragraph, the Secretary General shall instruct another staff member.

3.       Those conducting the inquiry are only accountable to the Secretary General and may not receive instructions from any other person in this connection.

4.       a. Those conducting the inquiry may invite directly any Secretariat member[1] to appear before them in order to answer questions related to the facts they seek to establish. The Secretariat member in question may not refuse to appear without due cause. S/he must be given adequate information about the object of the inquiry and has the right to be accompanied by a staff member of his/her choice (provided that the staff member of his/her choice is not directly concerned by the inquiry). S/he may not be submitted to oppressive or misleading questioning and should not be offered any inducement or subjected to any threats.

b.       A Secretariat member appearing before those conducting the inquiry has the duty to disclose all information in his/her possession that may be of relevance. However, s/he may not be subjected to sanctions for failing to reply to a question that may engage his/her responsibility under the disciplinary rules of the Organisation.

5.       a. Those conducting the inquiry may order the production of Organisation documents related to the facts they seek to establish and visit any premises of the Organisation if this would serve the purposes of the inquiry.

b. They may also exercise, for the same purposes, the powers described in the instruction on the use of the Council of Europe’s Information System. Whenever the Secretary General has ordered an inquiry into facts related to an alleged breach of the Organisation’s internal rules, these powers may not be exercised by another “competent authority” within the meaning of the above-mentioned instruction in respect of the same set of facts.

6.       Those conducting the inquiry may exercise the powers conferred on them collectively or entrust their exercise to one person among them.

7.       Those conducting the inquiry must keep detailed records of their proceedings. Secretariat members appearing before those conducting the inquiry shall be invited to sign the record of their hearing and add any comments they may consider appropriate to make.

8.       As soon as those conducting the inquiry identify a Secretariat member as the person suspected of having committed a breach of the Organisation’s internal rules, they must inform him/her of this and invite him/her to consult all the records of the proceedings that are necessary for the preparation of his/her defence. They shall hear him/her in accordance with Article 4 above. That person shall have the right to raise with those conducting the inquiry and ultimately with the Secretary General any issues that may arise in connection with Article 2 above.

9.       The inquiry proceedings are confidential. Persons involved in an inquiry who disclose information obtained in this context shall be subject to a disciplinary procedure.

10.     The inquiry must be concluded within the time-limit set by the Secretary General under Article 1 a) above. Otherwise, it will be considered that the facts into which the inquiry has been conducted do not disclose a breach of the Organisation’s internal rules.

11.     At the end of the inquiry those having conducted it must submit a confidential report with their findings and recommendations to the Secretary General. If they conclude that a Secretariat member has breached the Organisation’s internal rules, their report must be accompanied by the comments of the Secretariat member in question.

12.     The Secretary General shall act on these recommendations within six weeks. Otherwise, it will be considered that no action will be taken.

13.     a. After the end of the inquiry, the file with the records of the proceedings remains confidential and must be kept under lock and key in the Directorate General of Administration and Logistics.

b. However, if the Secretary General, following an inquiry, decides to institute disciplinary proceedings against a staff member, the staff member in question shall be given access to all the records of the inquiry that are necessary for the preparation of his/her defence.

c. If the Secretary General, following an inquiry, decides to transmit a case before the Disciplinary Board, s/he shall also transmit to the Board the inquiry report together with the report provided for under Article 2 paragraph 2 of the Regulations on disciplinary proceedings (Appendix X to the Staff Regulations).

d. If the Secretary General decides not to take any action against a Secretariat member who was identified as suspect under Article 8 above, s/he shall inform him/her directly in writing.

14.     This instruction may not be interpreted as to limit the powers of the Internal Audit under the Internal Audit Charter.

15.     This instruction will enter into force on 23 June 2006.

Strasbourg, 10 June 2006

The Secretary General

Terry Davis



[1] The term designates staff members under Article 1 of the Staff Regulations, temporary staff members under the relevant Rules and seconded officials under Article 1a of the Regulations on secondment to the Council of Europe.