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Office of the Ombudsperson
What do we do?
We promote fairness and transparency in the public sector to enhance good governance and public confidence in government. We look for fair resolutions and make recommendations to improve the practices of public agencies.
Our services are free and impartial. We do not take sides. We evaluate the process, service and decision to ensure that they meet the standards of fairness.
Our investigations are private and we must ensure confidentiality.
We cannot investigate:
- Decisions made by the federal government
- Decisions, recommendations, acts, orders or omissions of the Legislative Assembly of PEI (the LA), a committee of the LA, Cabinet, Executive Council or a committee of Executive Council
- Decisions, orders, or omissions made by the courts
- Decisions, recommendations, acts or omissions where there is a right of appeal or objection or a right to apply for a review of the merits of the case to a court or tribunal – unless the Ombuds is satisfied that in the particular case it would have been unreasonable to expect the complainant to resort to the court of tribunal
- Decisions made by universities or schools
- Private businesses or private matters
However, we will try to direct you to the proper office to make your complaint.
Before you come to us, you must try to resolve your complaint with the organization through their internal complaint/appeal process. Give them a chance to make things right. You can do this by:
- Asking to speak to a supervisor or manager so you can explain your concerns.
- Asking if there is a review or appeal available so you can advance your case.
- Writing down the names of the people you speak with, and noting the date of your conversation. It is also helpful to keep notes about what they said to you.
- Treating the people you are dealing with respectfully and courteously. Listen to them carefully to ensure you fully understand their position.
- Asking questions if you do not understand what they are telling you.
- Writing to them to outline your complaint. It is important to make your complaint as clearly and concisely as possible. Keep a copy of your correspondence and all documents you receive.
If you have tried to resolve the matter and remain unsatisfied with a decision made by a public sector organization, or you feel you were not treated fairly by them, you may make a complaint to our office.
You can complain about lack of fairness in process, service or decisions. Fairness means more than making the right decision and following the right process. Fairness is about interpersonal treatment and interactions – the quality of the interaction with the public body may still result in unfair treatment.
What is “fairness”? We when assess whether you have been treated fairly we look at whether:
- the legislation that created the authority or power to make a decision and to which decision maker the authority was granted.
- the process used to make the decision was fair (procedural fairness)
- you were given a full and fair opportunity to present your case and whether you received full disclosure about the case to be met
- you received adequate reasons for the decision
- the decision was impartial (the rule against bias)
- the decision-maker failed to honour a commitment or to follow their regular procedure
- the decision was made in a timely fashion
- discretionary decisions were made in good faith, proper purpose and taking into account only relevant consideration
- the decision was reasonable – was there a rational connection between the evidence presented and the conclusions reached by the decision-maker
- information was provided about any review or appeal process
Examples of the questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you feel you were eligible for a benefit or service and have been denied that benefit?
- Did you wait too long to get answers you need?
- Do you disagree with a decision made or you feel it wasn’t explained to you properly?
- Were you treated with respect and courtesy?
You can complain about:
- Decisions, recommendations (including those made to a Minister) that are made or acts that were done, or omitted to be done - in exercise of a power, duty or function conferred or imposed by an Act on
- Boards, commissions, associations and other bodies
- if all of the members are appointed by an Act or by an order of Cabinet
- if the members are public officers or servants of the Government or are directly or indirectly responsible to the Government
- Health PEI
- Council members (including allegations of conflict of interest or contravention of a code of conduct)
- Board members
- Officers and employees of the Government
- Boards, commissions, associations and other bodies
- the complaint is about something that happened more than a year ago;
- the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith or is about something trivial;
- In the Ombuds’ opinion, on the balance of public interest and the interest of the person aggrieved it should not be investigated or the investigation should not be continued;
- in the Ombuds’ opinion, the circumstances do not warrant an investigation;
- the complainant does not have sufficient personal interest in the complaint; or
- during the course of an investigation, it appears that the complainant has an adequate remedy or right of appeal under the law or administrative practices; or having regard to all circumstances, further investigation is unnecessary.
We will review your complaint to make sure we have the authority to investigate. In order to make a proper decision about this, we might need more information from you. We will confirm whether:
- it is about a subject and organization we can look at
- it has gone through the right complaints/appeal procedure
- it has enough detail and paperwork for us to get to work on it.
If we think your complaint requires further assessment, we will contact you.
If we decide that we will investigate your complaint we will advise you, and the public agency, of our decision to accept the complaint in writing. We will convey the issues that will be looked into.
We may ask you for more details and copies of documents that will help us understand your complaint. We will make some initial calls to the public agency to learn more and to find out if the problem can be resolved informally.
We will try to resolve your complaint by working with you and the public agency. We will hear from both sides and evaluate the complaint to ensure that you have received fair service, fair treatment and a fair decision.
Before we make our final decision on your complaint, we will contact you, and the organization under investigation, to share our preliminary findings. This is your opportunity to tell us if we have relied on inaccurate information, or if you have new information that you think changes our prelimary findings. We will take your comments into account when arriving at our final decision. We will also share the findings with the organization under investigation.
- A better working relationship between you and the public agency
- A refund or reimbursement
- Access to a benefit previously denied
- Better reasons for a decision
- A formal apology
- The public agency may voluntarily take steps to correct or improve the situation
- The Ombuds may decide that the public agency acted fairly and nothing more needs to be done
- The Ombuds may find a lack of fairness and make recommendations to correct it;
- With a commitment to follow a fairer process (i.e. policy) in the future
- A recommendation for employee training
- Changes to policy, procedures, and sometimes legislation
We will share our conclusions with you and explain our reasons.
We may contact you in the early stages of the complaint to determine whether or not to investigate the matter. Quick responses to those requests will help us ensure we don’t take cases to investigation which we could resolve early in the process.
When we decide to investigate a complaint, you will receive a letter which clearly sets out the information we are looking for. We will give you an opportunity to comment. We will ask you to tell us how you handled the complaint. We normally give 20 working days to return the information requested and provide comments. This allows us to resolve matters quickly and informally.
If the matter proceeds to a formal investigation, we will ask for clarification and more information. We will always set out a timeline for response – normally 10 working days.
We will provide you with our preliminary findings and allow you time to respond. This is your opportunity to tell us if we have relied on inaccurate information, or if you have new information that you think changes our preliminary findings. We will take your comments into account when arriving at our final decision.
When we publish our investigation report, we normally identify the organization involved. Where, however, we think that doing so could identify an individual, we are likely to anonymize the report, including the organization if appropriate. We also reserve the right to exempt some reports from publication, usually to prevent the possibility of someone being identified.
Do you have an issue you'd like our help with? Submit your complaint (PDF).