Date: Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Reference: COFMDFM 01/11/12
Scottish, Welsh and Irish Ombudsmen have given evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. The Committee is currently looking at updating the legislation for the Northern Ireland Ombudsman’s Office with a view to implementing best practice.
The current Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has responsibility for investigating complaints about Government departments, the health service, social care, local government and non-governmental bodies.
Chairperson of the Committee Tom Elliott MLA said: “When the Ombudsman’s Office was set up 40 years ago we were blazing a trail in holding government and non-governmental bodies to account. Over the years however, other jurisdictions have implemented more innovative oversight arrangements.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly is now considering ways to improve the way our Ombudsman operates and my Committee is leading this process. We are consulting with other Offices to see how we can implement changes that will take us back to the forefront of ensuring proper and transparent oversight. Learning from the best practice of other Ombudsman Offices is an important part of this process and I am grateful that these Ombudsmen are here today.”
Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Chris Lyttle MLA is in no doubt about the importance of reforming the Ombudsman’s role. He said: “As Members of the Assembly we understand that it is vital to improve public services for local people. Taking evidence from other Ombudsman Offices will allow us to deliver on this aim.”
The Reform of the Northern Ireland Ombudsman Bill will be the first Bill brought forward by an Assembly Statutory Committee.