Northern Ireland Assembly
Committee Bill set to strengthen your right of redress
Legislation brought to the Assembly by the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is set to reform how complaints are made against public bodies in Northern Ireland.
The new ‘Public Services Ombudsperson Bill’ will create one new office, merging and reforming the powers, remit and responsibilities of the Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland with those of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints. The new office will be known as the Ombudsperson or ‘NIPSO’ (Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsperson).
Committee Chairperson Mike Nesbitt MLA said:
“People in Northern Ireland expect and deserve good service from all our public bodies. This new legislation will both simplify the procedure for making a complaint of maladministration and strengthen the mechanisms for providing redress.
“Currently complaints to the Assembly Ombudsman have to go through an MLA. The Bill gives members of the public direct access to the new NIPSO for all complaints. A successful complainant will be able to take the NIPSO’s report to the county court where a public body does not follow the NIPSO’s recommendation.”
Mr Nesbitt MLA continued: “Replacing and updating the legislation from 1996, the proposed Bill will widen the remit to include additional public bodies, such as schools, universities and further education colleges.”
Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Dr Tom Frawley added “This is a very significant piece of primary legislation that has been developed by the OFMDFM Committee and I am grateful to the Chair of that Committee, Mr Mike Nesbitt MLA and the Committee for leading on the development of potentially the most modern Ombudsman’s office in these islands. The Office will provide a means of redress for individuals who believe they have suffered injustice as a result of failures in public services and will also be a key office of the Assembly with a role in holding government and public officials to account for the performance of public service. This Bill will provide the Ombudsman with new statutory responsibility, new powers and an extended jurisdiction and I welcome its introduction and prospective passage through the Assembly and it represents a significant milestone in the history of this important office.’
Mr Nesbitt MLA concluded: “The OFMDFM Committee welcomed Dr Frawley’s suggestion that we take this project forward and is appreciative of the support which he and his colleagues have provided during the development of what is the first Bill to be brought forward by a Statutory Committee of the Assembly.
The Committee looks forward to engagement with the Ad Hoc Committee that will consider the provisions of the Bill in detail and we would encourage stakeholders to respond to the Ad Hoc Committee’s call for evidence.”
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