Office of The Ombudsman

Who can complain about a public body?

‘Any person aggrieved’ can make a complaint to the Ombudsman. You have to be a member of the public who can claim to have suffered injustice because of maladministration by a public body in Gibraltar.

Office of The Ombudsman

Who can complain about a public body?

‘Any person aggrieved’ can make a complaint to the Ombudsman. You have to be a member of the public who can claim to have suffered injustice because of maladministration by a public body in Gibraltar.

Who can the Ombudsman investigate?

The Ombudsman can investigate complaints against:

Government departments

statutory bodies such as the Care Agency and GBC

public utilities such as GibTelecom

other bodies such as Calpe House in London, the Gibraltar Government representative office in London and the Gibraltar Government representative office in Brussels.

See Appendix One for a list of the bodies that the Ombudsman may investigate.

In 2008 and in 2009, most complaints were received about the Ministry of Housing.

What can the Ombudsman investigate?

The Ombusdman can investigate any ‘administrative action’ carried out by the public body. He can take up complaints about:

the way an organization has done something, or

the way the organization not done something it should have done.

Examples of the type of complaint he can investigate are:

delay or neglect in responding to enquiries or providing a service

failure to follow the agreed policies, rules or procedures of the organisation

rudeness, discrimination or unhelpfulness of officials

incorrect and/or misleading information and advice given by officials

failure of officials to provide advice and information.

The most common complaint in Gibraltar is delay. Other complaints concern:

lack of response

negligence due to lack of proper care and attention

unsatisfactory replies

administrative errors

faulty procedures.

What can’t the Ombudsman investigate?

The Ombudsman is not allowed to investigate:

any action where the person complaining has a right of appeal or review before a tribunal.

For example, if you receive written notification of a decision of the Housing Authority and you are aggrieved by that decision, you may apply to the Housing Tribunal for a declaration that the decision is wrong in law or is in ‘excess of jurisdiction’.

any action where you have a remedy by taking court action or going to a board of enquiry.

For example, n the case of divorce or separation, where you have been removed from a property, you have a legal right to challenge this decision by going to court and so Ombudsman can’t investigate this problem

any action in where you have a right of complaint or review under any complaints procedures established under any Act.

For example if you have a complaint against the Gibraltar Health Authority, you must follow their internal complaints procedure, followed by a review by the Complaints Review Panel.

However, even in these cases, the Ombudsman may conduct an investigation if he considers it isn’t reasonable for you to take this course of action because:

you can’t afford to the costs of the remedy, or

the costs would be out of proportion to the remedy you might obtain; or

you can’t obtain enough evidence to start court action; or

of any other reason that the Ombudsman thinks is sufficient.

Time limit

A complaint must be made to the Ombudsman not later than six months from the day when you first had notice of the problem. If the person who is aggrieved dies or is unable to act for themselves, the complaint has to be made by someone else, within six months of the death of the person aggrieved or when they became incapable of making the complaint.

The Ombudsman can investigate a complaint that doesn’t meet this deadline if there are special circumstances. This is a subjective test which is applied on a case-by-case basis.


How to make a complaint

First of all, you should complain first to the organization concerned. Contact the relevant department, setting out the problem and giving as much factual information as possible. Attach copies of any relevant documents.

If you do not get a satisfactory response or you do not get an answer within a reasonable time, ask the Ombudsman to look into the complaint. You must complaint to the Ombudsman in writing within the time limit – see above.

What happens when you have made a complaint?

If your complaint comes into the remit of the Ombudsman’s work, he will carry out an investigation in private. He is allowed to obtain information and make enquiries as he sees fit. He can call for documents and ask questions of witnesses in the same way as the Supreme Court could. He may require any Minister, officer or member of the organization or anyone else to provide information or produce documents.

However there is an exception to this rule and in these cases the Ombudsman will not ask for the information or document. This would be the case, for example, if the Chief Minister certifies that providing the information or document is likely to:

have serious harmful effects on the economybe harmful to the public interestput the internal or external security of Gibraltar at risk.

There are other exceptions to the rule, so you might ned to get advice about this point.

How long should an investigation take?

The Ombudsman has published guidance about the time scale within which they should respond to requests for information. He expects an acknowledgment of receipt of the complaint to be sent within four days of receipt at the very latest

He expects an initial reply to be written within seven days of receipt of the complaint at the very latest.

He expects a substantive reply to his letter informing the organisation of the complaint by no later than two to three weeks from the date of his letter. If the organisation is unable to provide a substantive reply within three weeks, a suitable holding letter be sent, explaining why the three-week time frame can’t be kept to and confirming when the organisation will be able to send a substantive reply.

Remedies

If the Ombudsman finds that the complaint is justified, he will give recommendations on how to sort out the problem. The actions the Ombudsman might ask for include:

an apology

improved administrative procedures

putting the problem right. For example, if a complaint about delay to repair a government flat is sustained, the Ombudsman could recommend that the repair is carried out immediately.

The Ombudsman has no power to force the organization to take any of these steps, but organizations do usually agree with the recommendations.

Further information

For more information, contact:

The Gibraltar Public Services Ombudsman
10 Governor’s Lane

Tel: 200 46001
Fax: 200 46002
Website: ombudsman@Gibraltar.gi

Appendix One

The following bodies can be investigated:

AquaGib
Attorney General
Building and Works Department
Bruces farm
Calpe House, London, and Calpe House Trust
City Fire Brigade
Civil Status and Registration Office
Companies House
HM Customs
Department of Education and Training
Elderly Care Agency
Employment Service
Department of the Environment
Environmental Agency
Financial and Development Sec
Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation
Gibraltar Electricity Authority
Gibraltar Health Authority
Gibraltar Post office
Gibraltar Police Authority
Gibtelecom
GPR Investments
Gibraltar Government representative office in London;
Gibraltar Government representative office in Brussels;
Housing Department
Human Resources
Income Tax Office
Land Property Services Limited
Magistrates’ Court
Office of the Chief Minister
Port Authority
Prison Service
Primary Care Centre
HM Prison
Reporting Office
Royal Gibraltar Police
Department of Social Security
Social Security
Social Services Agency
Sports and Leisure
Supreme Court
Technical Services
Transport and Licensing
Trade Industry and Tel
Transport Commission
Treasury

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CAB SERVICE AIMS TO

Ensure that individuals do not suffer through lack of knowledge of their rights and responsibilities or of the services available to them or through an inability to express their needs effectively.