Ombudsman reprimands Ministry of the Interior for negligence
Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has issued a reprimand to the Ministry of the Interior for having failed to confirm an official badge for municipal parking supervisors, although this task was statutorily assigned to it as early as 1970. According to the relevant Decree, a parking supervisor must produce his or her official badge when necessary or this is demanded.
The Ministry has fulfilled the demands of the Decree only in deciding on the uniforms and distinguishing features of parking supervisors, but not their official badges. The Ombudsman has issued a reprimand to the Ministry for this negligence.
Ministry did not present an acceptable reason for its negligence
The Ministry of the Interior explained its negligence by stating that "it would not be natural" to draft legislation dealing only with an official badge and that it would prefer to postpone deliberation of the matter until a comprehensive revision of regulation of parking supervision was being considered.
Ombudsman Jääskeläinen does not consider the explanation acceptable, because what is involved is a task unequivocally assigned to the Ministry in a Decree currently in force.
The Ministry also disparaged the significance of an official badge alongside parking supervisors' uniform and distinguishing feature.
On this point, the Ombudsman pointed out that parking supervisors have been given extensive statutory authorisation to exercise public power. The driver of a vehicle is obliged to state his or her identity to parking supervisors when requested to do so and must also stop the vehicle when ordered to do so by them. In addition, an order to pay a parking fine that they have issued is executed without a court judgement or decision.
In order to demonstrate their authority, parking supervisors must be able to produce their official badge when necessary or this is demanded.
Presentation of an official badge came up in a decision of a Deputy-Ombudsman already in 2004
The Ministry's negligence appears in quite an odd light also because the question of producing an official badge was specifically mentioned in a decision issued by Deputy-Ombudsman Ilkka Rautio in February 2004. In his decision, he pointed out that in future it would be desirable to strive to ensure that parking supervisors state their identity when asked to do so and also show an official badge. He urged the Ministry to take this into account when the regulations on parking supervision were being revised.
When the Decree on parking fines was amended in 2007, a provision to the effect that an official badge must be produced not only "when necessary", but also "when demanded" was included in it.
Now, however, it has emerged that the official badge doesn't even exist, because the Ministry has never confirmed it !
Thus parking supervisors have not been able to fulfil their obligation under the Statute to demonstrate, when necessary or this is demanded, their authorisation to perform their official task. Correspondingly, those who have become the objects of parking supervisors' attentions have not been able to be certain that a person exercising public power is a municipal official authorised to do so.
Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen has requested the Ministry of the Interior to inform him, by 31.12.2010, of what measures it has taken in the matter.
Additional information will be provided by Legal Adviser Ulla-Maija Lindström, tel. +358 (0)9 4321.