New Ombudsman for public services

NIPSO Marie Anderson
NIPSO Marie Anderson

A new Ombudsman’s office for investigating complaints about public services has been launched (01 April).

The Office of the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) has been created by the Ombudsman (NI) Act 2016, a new piece of Assembly legislation aimed at making it easier for the public to complain about public services and at increasing the public accountability of public service providers.

The Ombudsman independently investigates complaints about a wide range of bodies spanning the health, housing, local government and education sectors. However, from today, the public can also complain to the Ombudsman about the actions of the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission.

The new NIPSO has been given a wider remit and greater investigative powers than its predecessors, and will be able to: publish investigation reports in the public interest; investigate complaints about social work decisions; investigate complaints about maladministration by government departments in commercial and contractual matters (including procurement); access legal advice that is relevant to an investigation; take any action in addition to or instead of an investigation, such as conciliation.

Mrs Marie Anderson, has been appointed as the first NIPSO.

“I am pleased and privileged to have been appointed by the Assembly to lead this new Office and to have the opportunity of implementing the powers provided by the refreshed Ombudsman legislation,” she said.

“As Ombudsman it is my role to ensure that the public can easily complain about public services and can expect that their complaint will be thoroughly examined by my staff.”