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FOI Publication Scheme

Freedom of Information Scheme for the Office of the Ombudsman

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Introduction

The following Publication Scheme has been prepared under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 2014. The Scheme comes into effect on the 14 April 2016. It is designed to facilitate the provision of information to the greatest extent possible, except for information exempted under the FOI Act.

The Scheme is web based and contains links to reference material on our website, which will be updated as provided for under the Act.  A hard copy will be made available for viewing by appointment.

 A.      Information about the Office of the Ombudsman

Who we are and what we do

The primary function of the Office of the Ombudsman is to examine complaints against certain public service providers under the Ombudsman Act, 1980 as amended (the Act).

Establishment

The Office of the Ombudsman (the Office) was established under the Ombudsman Act, 1980.  The Ombudsman Act has been amended a number of times, principally by the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act, 1984 and by the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act, 2012. 

The Office is a public body for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, 2014 (the FOI Act).  Accordingly, its records may, subject to certain exceptions, be accessed by an FOI request.

Role and responsibilities

The role and responsibilities of the Office are to fulfil the requirements established under the Act.  The Office examines complaints from people who feel they have been unfairly treated by certain public service providers.  The public service providers whose actions may be examined by the Ombudsman include:

  • all Government Departments
  • the Health Service Executive (HSE)
  • Local Authorities
  • public hospitals
  • publicly-funded third level education institutions
  • private nursing homes (with effect from 24 August 2015, SI 300/2015 refers) and
  • many other public service providers.

An indicative list of these other public service providers is published on the Ombudsman's website at 180 additional public service providers

The Ombudsman also examines complaints about failures by public bodies to provide accessible buildings, services and information, as required under Part 3 of the Disability Act, 2005.  For these types of complaints the term 'public body' includes Government Departments, Local Authorities, the HSE and semi-state bodies, as well as most other state organisations.

Functions of the Ombudsman

The main functions of the Ombudsman are:

  • To examine complaints about the administrative actions of certain public service providers
  • To determine appropriate redress
  • To ensure learning and prevent recurrence
  • To drive improvement in public administration

Preliminary Examinations and Investigations

The Ombudsman legislation provides that the Ombudsman may pursue a complaint by means of a preliminary examination or an investigation.  The Ombudsman cannot make a formal finding of maladministration (improper, erroneous or unfair actions) or a formal recommendation for redress to a public service provider under the preliminary examination process.  However, this does not impede the ability of the Office to satisfactorily conclude the vast majority of complaints by means of this process with the cooperation of the public service provider.

The investigation process itself tends to be more formal with a number of procedural requirements to be followed, on the grounds of natural justice and fair procedures, e.g. requirement to notify all relevant parties, requirement to allow officials and public service providers to comment on any adverse comments in a draft report etc.  Ombudsman investigations are confidential and are not conducted in public and, if the situation demands it, the Ombudsman may limit the amount of information put into the public domain in his investigation report and preserve the anonymity of individuals.  Having initiated an investigation the Ombudsman may decide to suspend it if a satisfactory resolution is provided by the public service provider during the investigation process.

In cases where an investigation is completed the Ombudsman normally publishes a report on the investigation and its outcome.  If the Ombudsman makes a formal recommendation to a public service provider following an investigation such a recommendation does not have the force of law and the public service provider is not obliged to comply with it.  If a public service provider does not give a satisfactory response to a recommendation the Ombudsman may, at his discretion, lay a Special Report on the matter before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Records held by the Office

The range of records held in the Office fall within the following broad categories (some overlap may occur)

Internal Administration Records

  • Personnel Records
  • Accounts Records
  • Assets Register
  • Civil/Public Service Guidelines and Circulars
  • Published Media Coverage, including press cuttings
  • Speeches and Presentations by the Ombudsman/staff of the Office
  • Contacts with public service providers including the names of liaison officers for bodies covered by the Act
  • Notes and minutes of management meetings and associated documentation
  • Records relating to publication of reports e.g. annual reports, special investigation reports, including records relating to translation, tendering, designing and printing
  • Management of the website of the Ombudsman
  • Management of cases
  • Statistics on cases
  • FOI requests for access to records held by the Office
  • Data Protection Act requests for access to records held by the Office
  • General enquiries and correspondence

 

Policy

  • Contacts with the Department of Finance
  • Contacts with Oireachtas Committees
  • Correspondence/Memo of Understanding with equivalent offices
  • Records of internal policy

 

Legislation and related matter

  • Discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the operation of the Act

 

Staff Instructions/Guidelines

  • Internal procedures records
  • Liaison arrangements with public service providers

 

Examinations/Investigations by the Ombudsman

  • Case records, including records of communications with public service providers and complainants
  • Submissions made by public service providers and complainants
  • Records of legal advice sought and received
  • Decisions of the Ombudsman
  • Other records relating to examinations/investigations, including case closure details, investigations, analysis and comment by officials of the Office

Guidance for Public Service Providers

Internal complaints systems

The provision of redress

Making a meaningful apology

Standards of best practice

Guide to good public administration

Press releases on findings and recommendations

Ombudsman’s other functions and duties under the Act

  • Annual reports
  • Investigation/Own Initiative reports

Corporate Plans and Strategies

The Office’s Policies and Strategies are available here: Policies and Strategies

The Strategic Business Plan of the Office can be found here: Strategy Documents

Annual Report

The Office’s Annual Reports are available on the website at Annual Reports

Organisational Structure

Structure of the Office

Ombudsman:                          Peter Tyndall  

Director General:                    Jacqui McCrum

Management Team:                David Nutley (Head of Communications and Quality), Liam Duffy (Head of ICT), Madeleine Delaney (Legal Advisor), Tom Morgan and Seán Garvey (Senior Investigators)

There are 17 Investigators (Assistant Principal Officers), 7 Higher Executive Officers, 8 Executive Officers, 1 Staff Officer and 10 Clerical Officers working as caseworkers in the Office.

The corporate services function of the Office - human resources, finance, administration and information technology - are also provided by the Office.

 

Pay Grading

The Ombudsman also serves as the Information Commissioner and the Commissioner for Environmental Information.  He is also an ex officio member of the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Commission for Public Service Appointments, the Referendum Commission and the Constituency Commission.  His salary is equivalent to that of a Secretary General III in the Civil Service.

Similarly, the Director General acts as Director General for the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information.  Her salary is that of an Assistant Secretary in the Civil Service.

The salaries scales of civil servants may be found in the circulars available at the following links:

Salaries from Secretary General to Assistant Principal

Salaries from AO to CO

Salary of HEO

Location of Office

The Office is located at 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.

Opening hours: between 9.15 and 5.00 Monday to Friday.

Directions to the Office can be found here: Directions

Contact details

Post: Office of the Ombudsman, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2, D02 HE97

Telephone: +353-1-639 5600

Lo-call: 1890 223 030

Fax: +353-1-639 5674

Email: ombudsman@ombudsman.ie

Media Enquiries

Contact David Nutley, Communications, Office of the Ombudsman

Phone: 01 639 5610 or 086 023 1420

Email: david.nutley@ombudsman.ie

Memo of Understanding

The Office has a memo of understanding with the Ombudsman for Children (OCO).  This memo of understanding provides the basis for enhanced cooperation to address and deal with instances where both a child and an adult have been adversely affected.  Memo of Understanding with OCO

Additionally there is a memo of understanding between the Office and the Medical Council. This memo allows for the exchange of information and complaints between both offices. The agreement will also establish procedures to assist members of the public in accessing the services of both organisations. Memo of Understanding with Medical Council

The Office also has a memo of understanding with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).  This gives a framework for cooperation and information sharing about those elements of health and social care services which fall within our respective remits, and to establish effective procedures for signposting members of the public to each other’s services.  Memo of Understanding with HIQA

Customer Charter

The Office Customer Charter is available at Client Service Charter

Code of Practice

The staff of the Office are civil servants in the Civil Service of the State and are therefore bound by the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour

B.      Services Provided to the Public

The service we provide 

The Office acts as an independent complaints body for those dissatisfied with the response/decision of certain public service providers.  The Ombudsman may investigate any action taken by or on behalf of a public service provider in the performance of its administrative functions if that action has resulted in an adverse effect.

In addition the action must or may have been

•     taken without proper authority

•     taken on irrelevant grounds

•     the result of negligence or carelessness

•     based on erroneous or incomplete information

•     improperly discriminatory

•     based on an undesirable administrative practice

•     a failure to comply with section 4A which outlines the duty of public service providers to give reasonable assistance and guidance to persons in any dealings with the public service provider or

•     otherwise contrary to fair or sound administration

However, the Ombudsman may not examine a complaint if a person has already initiated court proceedings or has a right of appeal to another body, national security, terms and conditions of employment or where a complaint is not made within 12 months of the action occurring.  In some cases the Ombudsman may still investigate an action if it appears to him that there are special circumstances to do so e.g. where a complaint has been made outside of 12 months.

The Ombudsman may refuse to accept a complaint if the complaint is considered to be trivial or vexatious, if the person making the complaint has insufficient interest in the matter or if the person making the complaint has not taken reasonable efforts to seek redress in respect of the subject matter of the complaint or, if s/he has not been refused redress.

The Ombudsman also examines complaints about failures by public bodies to provide accessible buildings, services and information, as required under Part 3 of the Disability Act, 2005. 

How our service can be accessed

A person making a complaint about a public service provider should contact the Ombudsman within a specified time limit.  Normally, a complaint should be made to the Ombudsman within 12 months from the time of the action or the time the person became aware of the action.  The Ombudsman has discretion to extend this time limit – for as long as he may determine – where he feels there are special circumstances for doing so.

Complaints should generally be made in writing (post or email), by using our Ombudsman Complaint Form or on-line.  If a person has a disability and needs help to use the services of the Ombudsman, they can contact our Access Officer.  Complainants can also visit the Office to make their complaint.  Third parties can complain on behalf of complainants provided appropriate consent is granted.

To improve access to people living outside Dublin, staff from the Office visit Citizens Information Centre’s (CICs) in Cork, Limerick and Galway each month to take complaints from members of the public.  Details of the venues, times and dates of visits can be found on the homepage of our website.

How much it costs to access our service

The Ombudsman provides a free service.

Right of review relating to the service we provide

The Ombudsman’s decision completes our examination of your complaint. In certain limited circumstances we may review a decision where new evidence has come to light or there is evidence of a failure on our part. We will not review a case simply because you disagree with our decision.

Any requests for reviews must be submitted within one month of receiving our decision letter using the appropriate form.

Review requests can be sent to:

The Review Manager, Office of the Ombudsman, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2

Email: review@ombudsman.ie

C.      Decision-making process for major policy proposals

How we make decisions on policies

This Office is a complaints body and therefore does not make public policy.  However, the Ombudsman does have discussions with and provides submissions to the Department of Public Expenditure and R

The Ombudsman’s decision completes our examination of your complaint. In certain limited circumstances we may review a decision where new evidence has come to light or there is evidence of a failure on our part. We will not review a case simply because you disagree with our decision.

Any requests for reviews must be submitted within one month of receiving our decision letter using the appropriate form.

Review requests can be sent to:

The Review Manager, Office of the Ombudsman, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2

Email: review@ombudsman.ieeform regarding the operation of the Act.

D.      Financial Information

What we spend

Details of the Office’s Appropriation Account for 2014 is located at: http://www.audgen.gov.ie/documents/annualreports/2016/appacc/en/vote%2019.pdf

E.      Procurement

How we spend it

Procurement Procedures for Model Publications Scheme (2016)

F.      FOI Disclosure Log and other Information to be Published Routinely

FOI Disclosure Log

The FOI Disclosure Log can be read in Excel Format at this link

Summary of FOI Requests Submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman under the Freedom of Information Act

FOI Requests to the Office

Under the FOI Act, any person is entitled to apply for access to information which is not otherwise publicly available.  In general, as person has a right of:

1.   Access to records held by the Office

2.   Correction of personal information, relating to oneself, held by the Office, where such information is inaccurate, incomplete or misleading

3.   Access to reasons for decisions made by the Office which directly affect oneself.

The FOI Act does not cover all records held by the Office.  The FOI Act does not apply to records held by the Office which relate to an examination or investigation carried out by the Ombudsman. However, the FOI Act does apply to records relating to the general administration of the Office. 

Other records – e.g. those relating to the administration of the Office such as personnel matters or general contacts with public service providers – may be available under the FOI Act (subject to the standard exemptions). 

FOI requests relating to records of the Office should be made to:

Ciarán O'Donohoe

FOI Liaison Officer

Office of the Ombudsman

18 Lower Leeson Street

Dublin 2

Telephone: (01) 6395600   Fax: (01) 6395674   Email: ombudsman@ombudsman.ie

Requests should be made in writing and should specify that they are being made under the FOI Act.  The form in which the records are sought – e.g. photocopies/disk – should be stated in the request.  To allow identification of the records sought, requesters should describe the records in as much detail as possible.  If possible, a contact number which can be used during office hours should be provided for the purpose of clarifying the details of an FOI request.  The staff of the Office will assist in the formulation of an FOI request, if necessary. 

The Office will acknowledge a request under the FOI Act within two weeks.  This will include notification that, in the event that the requester is not satisfied with the FOI decision issued, there is a right to request an internal review of the decision.  The decision will issue within four weeks.

Information published by the Office

The FOI Act is intended to allow access to information held by public bodies which is not routinely available by other means subject to certain exemptions, procedures and time limits.  The following information about the activities and functions of the Office is available without the need to use the FOI Act.

Annual Reports

The Ombudsman submits a report to the Oireachtas each year in relation to the Office’s activities during the previous year.  Annual reports are available from:

  • The Office at 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.
  • On our website at https://www.ombudsman.gov.ie/en/Publications/Annual-Reports/
  • The Government Publications Office.  This office provides a Postal Trade Service.  Its address is Office of Public Works, Government Publications, 52 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.  Orders are accepted by telephone, email and post.  A Call Centre operates Monday to Friday 09.30 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.00 to assist callers and accept order payments by card, cheque or postal order.  There is also a dedicated email address, with all queries responded to on the next working day.  Tel: 01 647 6834 or email: publications@opw.ie

Investigation Reports

The Ombudsman also publishes his Investigation reports.  These reports include the formal findings arising from the investigation and, sometimes, the Ombudsman's recommendations for redress for the complainant as well as recommendations for improved practice.

The more recent reports and some key older reports are available in the Case Studies section of this website.

Casebooks

The Office publishes a quarterly Casebook which provides summaries of complaints the Ombudsman has dealt with over the previous months.  It is useful for service providers to learn from our examination of complaints and see what other similar organisations are doing well, and not so well.

The Casebook describes complaints (both Upheld and Not Upheld) across all the areas the Ombudsman deals with, e.g. Health, Social Welfare, Education, Local Government (inc. Planning, Housing, Roads and Water Supply), Environment, Agriculture, Equality, Taxation and payments/benefits received by the public.

Website

Our website (www.ombudsman.ie) contains additional information about the Office.  This includes:

  • Information about the Ombudsman and his role
  • Full text of the Ombudsman Acts of 1980 and 2014 and other amendments to the Ombudsman Act
  • Information on the Ombudsman and the Disability Act, 2005
  • Details of the Office’s Outreach Services
  • How to make a complaint to the Office about a public service
  • Speeches and Presentations of the Ombudsman and staff of the Office
  • Information leaflets published by the Ombudsman regarding our services and the examinations of complaints concerning various bodies