Ombudsman's powers extended

 

The powers of the Ombudsman’s office have been extended to allow her carry out independent investigations into new areas and agencies, including the third level sector.

Emily O’Reilly said today her office had lobbied for “decades” to have certain bodies brought within its remit.

She said people had in the past come to her office and she hadn’t been able to help them because the bodies about which they were complaining weren’t under her remit and “they couldn’t understand that”. People had felt discriminated against, she said.

Some 140 public bodies brought within the office's remit under the Ombudsman Amendment Act 2012 include the National Treatment Purchase Fund, Fás, the Irish Medical Council and the Family Support Agency.

Ms O’Reilly said she didn’t have to wait for a complaint to come before her to carry out an investigation.

If she saw from complaints already before her that there was “a systemic issue” that needed to be investigated, for example in a hospital or in future years in the third level sector, then she could initiate an investigation.

“Also if it comes to my attention either through the media or whatever that there’s a significant issue of mal-administration within a government department or any of the new agencies that have been added on to my remit now, then I can start my own investigation without a complaint coming to me,” she said.

Ms O’Reilly said, however, that other bodies should also be brought within her office’s remit.

One of the “vexed issues” was the question of the Ombudsman being given the power to investigated bodies dealing with asylum, prisons and immigration.

There had been numerous calls over the decades, including from the UN, for the protection of the Ombudsman’s office to be extended to these areas, Ms O’Reilly said.

But the Department of Justice had always resisted this level of independent oversight.

Ms O’Reilly said Minister for Justice Alan Shatter had promised to introduce this in new legislation.

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