Parliamentary Commissioner Act Sample

The title question assumes the purpose of ombudsmen and commissioners to be solely to remedy citizens' grievances, and such an assumption can be supported where one views the bodies' raison d'i?? tre as protecting the rights of citizens. However, another school of thought views the matter in a somewhat different light, believing that such bodies exist to merely deflect public criticism and protect the 'parent' body involved i. e. an adjunct to parliament. On such a basis, the court's decision in Dyer12 can be explained. There it was accepted that courts could review the PCA's decisions.

This would give citizens an extra protection per se. In Balchin13 there seem to be problems with the ombudsman body, since the court comes close to seize the discretion vested in the ombudsman to determine matters of fact. If this continued, many of the advantages the ombudsmen have over the courts would be lost, which could be said to be adverse from the viewpoint of correcting citizens' grievances. Nevertheless, it can also be argued that if one sees the ombudsman as an adjunct of Parliament then the court is then seen as a protector of citizens.

Another potential barrier to the PCA protecting citizens' interests may be the 'MP filter. ' On the one hand, it is argued that it allows the MP too much discretion, and the indirect access between the citizen and the ombudsman may prevent many worthy cases being brought to the latter's attention. While this is accepted as true to some extent, there is in fact a good case for preserving the filter. It prevents the ombudsman from being overloaded with cases (the floodgate argument) thus ensuring that his thoroughness remains high.

The PCA is viewed as an adjunct to Parliament, assisting in the traditional function of protecting the citizen, and that the he was never intended to be an independent citizen protector. It is also submitted that, in a great many cases, MPs may be better placed to deal with the matter. If the MP filter were removed, the MPs may become somewhat redundant to no great benefit to either the public or the ombudsman. Hence, those who point to the MP filter as an example of how the ombudsman fails to adequately address citizens' grievances may validly be accused of being short sighted.

Nevertheless, the Cabinet Office Review 2000 proposed the removal of the MP filter and allowing direct access to the PCA. However, it seems that if the relationship between the MP and the PCA were improved by the MP integrating the PCA's work in with his own, and viewing his role in a more positive way then the MP filter would be of more value. The PCA's role has developed considerably since the office was first introduced, and the scope of bodies within his jurisdiction has expanded.

The success of such complaints machinery is exemplified by the clear multiplication of Ombudsmen and Commissioners in various other fields such as the Health Service and Legal Services. Furthermore, the fact that the 1967 Act did not include complaints against Local Authorities (LA) has since been remedied by the Local Government Act 1974. The LA Ombudsman investigates complaints about any LA except town or parish councils and since 1988; the public have direct access to the Local Commissioner.

14 The citizen only resorts to the LA ombudsman if the LA foes not provide redress to a grievance. Thus, it is important to examine the internal grievance procedures used by the LA, which should be accessible, simple to use, speedy, confidential, comprehensive, and objective. A criticism which one may be better able to substantiate is that concerning publicity and public-awareness. Most people do not know of the functions of an ombudsman or commissioner and many departments (particularly governmental) may be accused of failure to inform, whether or not deliberately to avoid bad publicity.

Hence, the public fails to make use of ombudsmen and the like simply because of lack of knowledge. This is an extreme disability in terms of attempts to contribute to citizens' grievances. It can therefore be seen that the picture is not entirely positive in terms of ombudsmen and commissioners having a beneficial effect on public grievances. It is indisputable that ombudsmen and commissioners' contribution in dealing with citizens' grievances are improving yearly as they receive more complaints.

The introduction of ombudsmen in various fields highlights the positive impact in dealing with citizen's grievances whether or not the citizen turns out to have a wholly justified complaint. In order for the PCA to improve his role has protecting citizens there must be an increase in public awareness of his office. Dealing with some citizens' grievances will account for nothing unless the public are aware of the work. Thus, there must be better advertisement of his role through for example the Internet or television.

A criticism of the PCA is that his role is "reactive" as it receives the complaint after the loss has occurred. A more pro-active role would result in less maladministration nevertheless; this would be hard to achieve as his role is dealing with complaints and not to look for maladministration beforehand. The PCA's astounding success in securing financial redress for complainants and a rapid increase in jurisdiction and activity of the PCA with 158 bodies added in 1999 will no doubt add to the pressure to reform.

Further increase in jurisdiction such a sin other countries would also improve the PCA's role. Also the PCA should be able to award compulsory compensation, and imposing such burden increases the burden on public funds, resulting in a deterrent effect – decreasing complaints due to greater care being taken in the first place. To conclude, the multiplication of Ombudsmen itself proves that they do contribute positively in dealing with citizens' grievances. Nevertheless, major reform is needed to improve the PCA's role.

1 Listed in the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 and now updated in www. parliamentombudsman. org. uk/pca/govdepts. htm 2 'First Report from the Select Committee on the PCA' 1995 PL 45 3 Amos [2000] PL 21 4 1988 Committee of Justice – All Souls Review of Administrative Law 5 PCA's annual report 1998 – 1999 6 Merris Amos PCA – redress and damages for wrongful administrative action [2000] PL 21 7 Annual Report 1991 8 Annual report 1998 9 Bradley and Ewing 1998