What type of complaints does the Ombudsman investigate?

The Ombudsman investigates complaints by citizens who are of the opinion that there has been an infringement of their economic, social and cultural rights arising from maladministration caused by involuntary or intentional mishandling of executive power or by improper, unreasonable or inadequate conduct on the part of the public authorities concerned. Maladministration has been defined by the European Ombudsman as an instance of poor administration which occurs “when a public body fails to act in accordance with a rule or principle which is binding upon it.”

Examples of maladministration by public authorities which violate the right of citizens to good administration include:

  • undue and avoidable delay in taking decisions, in replying to correspondence and in granting citizens their rights and entitlements;
  • inequitable application of rules and procedures and failure to observe correct procedures;
  • administrative behaviour and practices that are inconsistent with the way in which public bodies acted in the past in similar circumstances;
  • withholding access to information that is of direct interest to citizens and refusal to provide reasonable information;
  • treating in a different manner citizens who are in the same situation;
  • lack of courtesy by public officials towards citizens;
  • mistakes in handling citizens’ affairs;
  • a rigid and inflexible application of rules and procedures that gives rise to inequity;
  • failure to inform people about any rights of appeal which they may have and how they may appeal against decisions that harm their interests;
  • failure to make good any damage caused by a public body to citizens and to be open to proposals to provide appropriate redress such as apologies, explanations and payment of ex gratia compensation even in the absence of relevant legal provisions;
  • failure to honour the obligation of public authorities to provide reasons for actions and decisions to those that are directly affected by them; and
  • failure to act in a fair and independent way and to abstain from bias, prejudice and preferential treatment on any grounds whatsoever.

In all cases of maladministration and administrative injustice that are upheld, the Ombudsman speaks with the voice of the citizen whatever the nature and scale of the complaint.