The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s 2021 Annual Report presented to the Speaker of Parliament
On Tuesday 21 June, Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen submitted his Annual Report 2021 to Speaker of Parliament Matti Vanhanen The year under review was marked by a strong increase in the number of cases and the coronavirus pandemic, which affected the Ombudsman’s activities in many ways. Like the previous year, a record number of complaints were received, in total 7,732. This is around 700 (10 %) more than in 2020 (7,059). A record number of complaints were also resolved (7,892). Similarly, the number of cases requiring statements rose to a record level of 155. On the other hand, due to the coronavirus pandemic, significantly fewer inspections were carried out than normal, i.e. at 39 sites.
Division of duties between the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the chancellor of justice will be reformed
The Parliamentary Ombudsman Jääskeläinen discusses the new Act on the division of duties between the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman, which will enter into force on 1 October 2022. The Parliamentary Ombudsman considers the legislative reform to be historic. It is one of the most important reforms that has taken place during the 100-year existence of the Ombudsman institution. The new Act on the Distribution of Duties will strengthen the role of the Ombudsman, in particular as supervisor of the rights and treatment of vulnerable persons and also as supervisor of the activities of security authorities. The reform will reduce problems caused by overlapping duties of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice, improve the quality and effectiveness of oversight of legality, and support the uniformity and consistency of the decision-making practice.
A primary consequence of the new Act will be that a number of large groups of cases will be transferred to the Ombudsman. For this reason, the successful implementation of the reform will require that sufficient resources are secured for the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee has thus stated that it considers it important that sufficient resources are reserved for oversight of legality.
On the impact of the Ombudsman’s activities
In her general comment, Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin presents the division, the purpose of which is to clarify both the external and internal assessment of the effectiveness of the supreme oversight of legality.
The evaluation of oversight of legality activities, allocating resources and choosing emphases for the oversight are mainly based on the evaluation of impact. Increasing the impact of the oversight of legality has been a goal guiding the Ombudsman’s activities in the recent years. The aim has been for the effectiveness of the oversight of legality to be guided by how the activities are directed. This requires defining the impact of the Ombudsman’s procedures and activities that extends beyond individual cases. According to Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin, the Ombudsman's activities have at least the following impacts: impact of interpretation, normative impact, procedural and organisational impact, preventive impact, impact on the quality of legislation, impact on the general principles of law, political impact and impact on the functioning of the rule of law.
The task of the Ombudsman is especially to ensure the realisation of the rights of people in a vulnerable position. A statement that directly impacts the status of an individual also becomes stronger through these other forms of impact.
Strong rule of law requires strong courts
Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen draws attention to the rule of law in his comment. The rule of law remains stable only when it is supported by all of its key pillars – democracy, legal protection and human rights. Each element must be in place and strong in itself. Courts are a critical part of the entity. The Ombudsman has for a long time been concerned about the thinness of constitutional regulation on the court system and the regulation required to guarantee independence. In recent years, there has been a welcome debate on the independence of courts. In particular, more detailed constitutional regulation on the number and retirement age of Supreme Court judges has been discussed. A discussion that strengthens the constitutional control role of courts has taken place on the elimination of the requirement of an obvious conflict in section 106 of the Constitution. The Ombudsman has repeatedly drawn attention to the weak resources in the judicial system, the length of proceedings, the fundamental problems of the system of attorneys and the high number of temporary judges. Recently, the oversight of legality has also emphasised the view that courts or administrative authorities should not be perceived as part of central government.
None of the numerous statements issued by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the representatives of the courts or the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament on the insufficient basic funding of courts have so far been realised in the Budget procedures. During the year under review, the Ministry of Justice launched the preparation of its first report on the administration of justice. It is an important instrument for the self-assessment of the rule of law. In this context, the legislator will be able to assess not only the resources but also the need to review the Constitution’s provisions on the court system.
Further information is available from Secretary General Jari Råman, tel. 432 3333.