ADDENDUM I (16 February 2012) to the submission of Accountability Scotland to the SPCB
- Independent investigation of the quality and effectiveness of the SPSO’s rulings (for example by Audit Scotland or an independent enquiry led by Professors Adler and Mullen, who are experts in the field of administrative justice) need not undermine his independence of Parliament. This is because the SPSO would not be bound to respond to the resulting report. Nevertheless, the feedback should be welcomed as it would give the public assurance that the SPSO does deliver justice as claimed.
- We would welcome an investigation similar to that carried out in England [The Law Commission (LAW COM No 329) Public Services Ombudsmen, July 2011]. There is clearly a need to bring the SPSO into a more coherent system of administrative justice in Scotland
- We are extremely concerned that the SPSO has abandoned totally any collecting of data on complainants’ views either on service or quality of investigation. Craigforth has not been re-employed, nor has anyone else. Therefore the SPSO has no external or internal guidance as to his own performance in terms of service and quality of justice, despite the two statements below.
In 2010 the SPSO wrote in regard to future surveys:
On the advice of Craigforth, we are exploring the possibility of forming a focus group of service users to provide us with more qualitative feedback. We expect to progress this in the next financial year, when our new business process has had an opportunity to settle into place.
From Annual Report 2009-2010:
In 2009 –10 we began a project to begin collecting data on complainants’ views of our service in the first quarter of the year. The data will be compared with the feedback from complainants in the first quarter of 2010 –11.
For your information we attach our recent submissions to the AJTC.
Letter to the SPCB from Accountability Scotland dated 20th February 2012
We are aware that the SPSO has just submitted his Draft Strategic Plan 2012-2016.
We note that the SPCB is considering this well before the deadline for responses in the SPSO’s public consultation process. The plan was published on Thursday and we learnt of it on Sunday evening. So we have had little time to consider it.
Our concern, as already expressed, is that there is no check on the quality, effectiveness and justice of the SPSO’s rulings on complaints and that, in this regard, the SPSO is accountable to no-one.
The optimistic tone of the Draft Strategic Plan disguises this fact.
The Draft Plan gives the impression that the external quality assurance audit looks at the quality of work produced by the SPSO and in common with most British Standard quality assurance schemes they only look at the quality of the paper trail. However, the impression given is that quality assurance covers all the Ombudsman’s actions.
The Internal Audit Report for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (Annual Assurance:Quality Assurance Scheme), October 2011, makes clear that the terms of its audit engagement were only to appraise the controls governing the SPSO’s actions, not the actions themselves. In other words, the quality assurance looks at only a tiny part of the SPSO’s work.
We note that the SPSO, except in one aspect, irrelevant here, the SPSO does “not anticipate any significant change to how we carry out our work”.
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