Scottish Public Finance Manual

The Scottish Public Finance Manual (SPFM) is issued by the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance on the proper handling and reporting of public funds.

Annex 1: Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

1. The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (the Ombudsman) considers complaints from members of the public claiming that they have sustained injustice or hardship in consequence of maladministration or service failure. The powers and responsibilities of the Ombudsman are set out in the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Act 2002.

2. A presumption has been established that a user of a service should have redress for administrative failings, which may include financial redress. The key, having concluded that financial redress is appropriate, is to identify the amount which is fair and reasonable, but no more, in the light of all the facts and circumstances of the case . In many cases "reasonable" is likely to mean restoring the complainant's financial position to what it would have been if the maladministration or failure had not occurred.

3. In the light of the investigation of the case, the Ombudsman will decide whether complainants have suffered injustice because of maladministration; and whether any injustice has been, or will be, remedied. The Ombudsman's findings on maladministration are final: there is no avenue of appeal (although the Ombudsman is within the scope of judicial review).

4. The Ombudsman may recommend that an organisation should provide redress for the complainant (and for any others who may have suffered in the same way). Redress may be an explanation, an apology, an undertaking to improve procedures or systems, an ex gratia payment or a combination of such measures. The Ombudsman's recommendations on remedies are not legally binding and can be rejected. An organisation proposing to reject an Ombudsman's recommendation should consult their legal advisers before doing so. If the Ombudsman considers that the injustice has not been, or will not be, remedied he/she may lay a special report before the Parliament.

5. The arrangements for handling investigations by the Ombudsman provide an opportunity for organisations to discuss emerging recommendations during the preparation of the report by the Ombudsman, and organisations should take the opportunity during the course of these discussions to make known any concerns they have on whether financial redress would be appropriate.

6. During the Ombudsman's investigation an organisation may itself decide, in consultation with its legal advisers, that maladministration has occurred and that an ex gratia payment would be appropriate, and hence that it should make a proposal to the Ombudsman or an offer to the complainant. (If such an offer is made to a complainant, the organisation may wish to explain that it is without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation.) Otherwise, if the organisation accepts that financial redress is appropriate, its discussions with the Ombudsman will also provide the opportunity to consider the level of compensation.


Updated: September 2008

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