The Ombudsman may conduct two types of own initiative investigation:
This factsheet explains how the Ombudsman can use his wider own initiative powers under the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2019.
Information about extended Own Initiative Investigations can be found here.
The Ombudsman has discretion to start a wider own initiative investigation in respect of any bodies within jurisdiction to consider whether there is evidence that:
A wider own initiative investigation may focus on a service or services provided by an individual body in jurisdiction or consideration of the same issues across one or more bodies in jurisdiction.
The Ombudsman can, as part of a wider own initiative investigation, consider actions and services provided before the PSOW Act 2019 came into force.
The Ombudsman will use his discretion to decide if there is the need to start an investigation. He will consider evidence available to establish if the criteria to initiate an investigation is met, including;
Although there is no widely accepted definition of public interest it is thought to be “something which is of serious concern and benefit to the public”. We consider it to be something which has an impact on the public and is not merely a matter the public finds to be of interest or a matter that impacts solely on an individual (although an individual may be more directly impacted by the matter than the wider public).
The public in this context does not necessarily mean the entire population of Wales. It may refer to a distinct section of the public such as a small community or interest group.
The Ombudsman may consider evidence from a number of sources, including:
Where the Ombudsman considers that there is the need to start an investigation and the criteria is met, he will consult on the subject of his proposed investigation with amongst others the Welsh Commissioners, other regulatory bodies and/or the Auditor General. It may be possible, in some circumstances, to collaborate with one of these bodies, to undertake a joint investigation and produce a joint report.
It may also be appropriate to seek the views of the wider public, by advertising the details of the proposed investigation on the PSOW website, in the media and/or by holding discussion events.
Following consultation, a proposal to investigate will be sent to the body or bodies to be included in the investigation with an invitation to comment, express its views and comment on the merits of investigating.
If, having considered any comments from the body, or bodies, included in the proposed investigation, the Ombudsman decides that it is appropriate to proceed, the details and scope of the investigation will be shared with the bodies concerned. The investigation will be managed in accordance with the Ombudsman’s existing complaints handling processes.
Although the Ombudsman can consider information provided by persons who may meet the statutory definition of whistleblower, the Ombudsman is not a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014. In such circumstances, the Ombudsman will signpost any potential whistleblowers to the body concerned or the appropriate prescribed person for that type of complaint. Any resulting investigation will not substitute or interfere with the whistleblowing duties, responsibilities and processes of the public bodies concerned.
Own initiative investigations will not usually be started to consider specific incidents or complaints of maladministration/service failure affecting individual members of the public only. Such matters are more appropriate for consideration using the Ombudsman’s general powers of investigation.