Public Service Ombudsman
The Ombudsman’s Office was established in 1980 and commenced in 1984. The Ombudsman holds office for six years and can be appointed for up to three terms. The Ombudsman is responsible for reviewing good administration across a wide range of the public service.
The Ombudsman may act on its own initiative or on a complaint. The Ombudsman investigates the actions of officials in any organisation where the actions have or may have affected adversely affected a person and the action was taken without proper authority on irrelevant grounds on the basis of being negligent, carelessness, based on erroneous or incomplete information, improperly, discriminatory, based on an undesirable administrative practice or otherwise contrary to fair or sound administration.
Each department must nominate an officer to liaise with the Ombudsman\’s office. That person must ensure that the Ombudsman’s requirements are complied with.
The Ombudsman prepares an annual report giving details of statistics and sample complaints. It comments on general issues in relation to its work. The Ombudsman has issued guides of best practice for public servants
Complaints regarding Governmental Action
The Ombudsman has powers to review complaints in relation to government departments, local authorities, health boards, health authorities and certain other organisations.
Complaints must generally be made within 12 months of the relevant event. The complaint must generally have been taken up with the relevant body and unsuccessfully appealed. Whatever appeal facilities must first be used. The services costs are free and no lawyers are required
The Ombudsman has the power to require all documents. The Ombudsman may require persons to appear. Investigations are conducted in private. An opportunity must be given to persons concerned to comment.
If the Ombudsman finds that the action concerned has an adverse effect on the person complaining it can recommend to the organisation that measures be taken to remedy the adverse effect. The reason for taking the action can be given. The Ombudsman can require the body concerned to give a response within a time.
The Ombudsman does not have the power to overturn decisions but can make recommendations. Ministers can veto investigations. Reasons must be given.
The Information Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Act reviews decisions by public authorities in relation to information requests. It can confirm or cancel them. It can make a new decision.
Matters may be withheld from FOI if the Secretary-General certifies that they contain matters relating to the deliberate processes of any department, security, defence, international relations and certain parliamentary briefings. Upfront fees apply.
The Commission keeps the Act under review and ensures maximum compliant. It has the function of fostering openness in most public bodies and encouraging the voluntary publication of information. It publishes commentaries on the operation of the legislation.
The Information Commission must be given all records and may enter the public body’s premises. It reviews decisions on requested records refusals, provides a complete record, requests questions of correct information. They may charge a fee or seek a deposit before information.
The Commissioner may review relevant FOI decisions of public bodies
- to refuse or provide all information,
- regarding corrected information,
- to refuse a request to correct information,
- to refuse to give reasons,
- to charge a fee or seek deposit before the information is released,
- release records in the public interest relating to a third-party that is personal given in confidence or commercially sensitive.
The Press Ombudsman investigates breaches of the Press Code of Practice. This is an industry code agreed to in 2007. It aims to give the public a method of dealing with complaints in relation to newspapers and other periodicals that breach the Code.
The office attempts to discuss and resolve the matter by direct contact with the editor of the publication concerned. It will attempt to proceed by conciliation. If not the Press Ombudsman will examine the case and make a decision.
The Press Ombudsman can refer cases to the Press Council. This consists of 13 members, representative of a broad selection of society representing the press and the public with an independent chairman. Seven persons including chairman representing a section of the public and six representing editorial, journalistic and press industry. It hears decisions directly referred or appeals on decisions by the Press Ombudsman.
Some other Ombudsman Schemes
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman is an independent body which investigates complaints against members of an Garda Siochana. It can also investigate matters of its own accord if no complaint where it appears a Garda may have committed an offence or behaved in a way which would justify the disciplinary procedure. It may investigate any practice or procedure of an Garda Siochana with a view to reducing complaints.
The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces gives former and serving members an independent appeal against complaints that they have not been addressed internally adequately. Data Protection Commissioner reports annually to the Oireachtas. It maintains a register of persons holding data including government departments and financial institutions. The Data Commissioner enforces the legislation and can determine complaints and investigations the matter and takes necessary steps.
Financial Services Ombudsman deals with and resolves complaints from individuals dealing with insurance, banks, brokers and others in the financial service industries. It has jurisdiction to make financial awards of compensation up to €300,000. It investigates the Ombudsman for children promotes rights and welfare of children and young people.
The Ombudsman for Children acts as an independent voice on behalf of the interests of children. It reviews laws, policies and practice to verify compliance with international human rights standards.
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