With effect from the beginning of June, the Ombudsman will no longer generally investigate complaints that are made in relation to matters more than two years old. At the same time, an amendment to the Parliamentary Ombudsman Act will add flexibility to investigation of complaints.
New legislation that enters into force at the beginning of June broadens regulation of a complaint made to the Ombudsman in a way that makes investigation correspond better to the Ombudsman's constitutional tasks than has hitherto been the case.
The new legal provision combines the Ombudsman's tasks of overseeing both compliance with the law and implementation of fundamental and human rights. The amendment will also add flexibility to the way complaints are investigated.
Can the Ombudsman help?
Arising from a complaint, the Ombudsman takes the measures that he considers warranted from the perspective of compliance with the law, protection under it or implementation of fundamental and human rights.
What the Ombudsman pays special attention to here is whether he can really help the complainant in his or her case, whether there is a need for guidance or a proposal by the Ombudsman, whether a rebuke by the Ombudsman is called for and whether the adoption by the Ombudsman of a stance on the matter is otherwise needed.
The legislative amendment has somewhat added to the range of measures available to the Ombudsman. From now on, it will be possible to transfer a complaint to another authority for handling if the nature of the matter justifies this.
Shorter expiry period for complaints
The period within which a complaint must be made has been shortened from five to two years with effect from 1.6.2011. However, the old, longer expiry period will still apply to complaints that began being dealt with before that date.
The reasons for reducing the expiry period include the recognition that possibilities of examining a matter and helping the complainant are generally better if the complaint is made soon after the event or matter to which it relates.
The two-year expiry period is not absolute. It will still be possible for the Ombudsman to examine a matter more than two years old and adopt a position on it if there is a special reason for doing so.
Use of conciliation and redress increasing
Conciliation is a new, flexible procedure that the Ombudsman can use either during investigation of a complaint or to conclude it. In addition, the subject of a complaint can be quickly contacted by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman if the complainant can be helped in this way. Matters that lend themselves to resolution through conciliation are decided on a case-by-case basis.
The Ombudsman can also recommend recompense if it is no longer possible to rectify or correct a rights violation that has occurred.
The amended Act does not contain a provision on conciliation or redress, but the Eduskunta's Constitutional Law Committee gave its support to both forms of work in its report.
Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Pasi Pölönen, tel. + 358(0) 9 432 3345.