spso Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Watch
Campaigning for a more accountable & effective Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
|SPSO claims that no
one complains about
|List of Complaints about
SPSO to the Scottish
Parliament proves otherwise.
SPSO in denial; they claim that no one complains about their
The Scottish Ombudsman Watch scored a victory by forcing the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO)
to acknowledge that they received complaints about their service (see web page "Victory for SOWatch).
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman now reports the number of complaints made against them on their
web site at the web page http://www.spso.org.uk/complain/article.php?ssi=36.
At the bottom of this web page you will find a section called "Recording and Monitoring"which states
"We keep a record of all complaints made about our service and record the outcome of each complaint. We
produce statistical information relating to these complaints each year. If shortcomings in our service have been
identified through a complaint, we use this information to review and improve the service we provide. Statistics
for 2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here."
If you open the PDF document "SQM_stats " link then it details all of the complaints that members of the
public have made regarding the service provided by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).
1. It would appear from the SPSO statistics that they investigate complaints about their service .....however they have stated that they
do not produce formal investigation reports into these complaints (see web page "Who guards the Guards?").....so how can they
uphold a complaint if it is not formally investigated or reported?
2. The second and probably more disturbing claim made in this document is
"These complaints are not about our decisions, but about the service provided by our staff. The majority of complaints
are about administrative issues such as delay"
My complaints about the SPSO decisions
I know for a fact that I complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman about their decision to dismiss all of my complaints
with the following excuses:
- the Ombudsman cannot interpret the law
- the Ombudsman cannot question any matter relating to the Council's failure to follow the laws of this Country
- the Ombudsman cannot question the Council's opinion
- the Ombudsman cannot question the Council's professional judgement
- the Ombudsman cannot question the Council's technical judgement
- the Ombudsman does not require the Council to provide any documentary evidence to support their decision. If the Council say
they are "satisfied" then the Ombudsman must accept their position.
- the Ombudsman cannot consider as evidence or compare correspondence that has been sent by the Council to the complainant.
The Ombudsman can only consider the information provided directly by the Council as a result of their enquiry.
Obviously the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman does not think that these complaints relate to their decision to dismiss my
complaint; otherwise they would not be able to claim ""These complaints are not about our decisions".
In August 2008 the SPSO were forced to acknowledge by Scottish Ombudsman Watch that they do in fact
receive complaints about their decisions. In the last five years they have received 641 complaints about their
decisions which proves that their claim that no one complains about their decision was not correct. see FOI
response for details of the 641 "comeback complaints" double click LINK)
When is a complaint not a complaint? Answer: when you complain about the SPSO's decisions.
The SPSO conveniently split complaints made to them into "service quality" and "outcome" complaints. If you
look at their web site the SPSO only report "service quality complaints" and claim that no one complains about
their decisions! The "outcome" complaints are not investigated, not reported to Parliament or mentioned on
their web site.........why are the SPSO hiding the fact that people complain about their decisions! What have
they to hide?
This is the organisation which is meant to show how a modern complaints system is implemented and
operated. If the SPSO cannot operate a visible and transparent complaints system about themselves, then
how can we expect the public authorities under their control to operate a complaints system? Gregor Hamilton
submitted this evidence to the Scottish Parliament as part of his written evidence in support of petition PE1163
double click LINK.
The Craigforth report showed that 59% of NHS complainants were dissatisfied (52% very dissatisfied) with the outcome
of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman investigation, but if you believe the SPSO's claims then none of them
complained about the Scottish Ombudsman's decision.
Complaints about SPSO to SPCB
The Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body have released an overview of the complaints made to them about the
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman for the re-appointment of Professor Brown to the position of Scottish Public
Services Ombudsman. Use this link to download a copy of the overview of complaints (link)
This overview proves that the public do in fact complain about the decisions made by the Scottish Public Services
Quotes from Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body overview
1. Ms A wrote to John Scott MSP to complain about the SPSO service and its replies. The SPSO had dismissed two
areas of complaint without answering any of the points raised and Ms A considered that their attitude to be an example
2. Mr B, MSP wrote to John Scott MSP concerning his constituent’s complaint about the SPSO who claimed that the
SPSO’s Final Report was shallow, cursory and driven by expediency and that the omission of any reference to a
possible breach of the DDA to be of particular concern.
3. Ms C wrote to John Scott MSP to complain about the SPSO’s Final Report. It appeared to her that the research
undertaken by the SPSO’s investigations team had been shoddy, incomplete, inaccurate and lacking in detail. She did
not accept the report conclusions. She considered that her complaint had not been fully or sympathetically
investigated. Although she thought the existence of the SPSO was a good idea, she thought that it required reform.
4. Mr D MSP wrote to John Scott MSP about the handling of one of his constituent’s complaints. He considered that
the Final Report should address all the issues and not be rushed. The draft report narrated a series of events from
which conclusions were drawn however no assessment of the evidence had been provided.
5. Mr E wrote to John Scott MSP after following the Ombudsman’s complaint procedure. He complained that the SPSO
had exaggerated the number of complaints made to the Ombudsman by including ‘enquiries’ in their statistics for the
annual reports to make it look as if they are dealing with significantly more complaints than they actually are. That the
SPSO falsely claimed that they provide a quasi-judicial role – they do not interpret the law and accept everything and
anything a local authority says without question. That the SPSO acts illegally by failing to lay copies of investigation
reports made about itself before Parliament. That the SPSO is a complete waste of public money as they only
investigated 27 complaints in the 2-year period 2003/04 and 2004/05 at a cost of £5m. That the SPSO has misled the
Parliament and the public by claiming they have supported external audits when Audit Scotland has confirmed that they
have never performed any ‘value for money’ audits on the Ombudsman.
6. Mr F wrote to John Scott MSP regarding the unreliability of the Ombudsman system, the lack of transparency and the
imposition of time-limits on the production of evidence. Mr F’s recourse to the Ombudsman service has been
counterproductive. Third parties in planning decisions injured as a consequence of errors by a statutory body should
not be consigned to some parallel but inferior system and left at the mercy of sometimes idiosyncratic judgements
which are then unaccountable.
7. Mr G wrote to John Scott MSP regarding the Ombudsman’s service. He complained that the Ombudsman seemed to
share the council’s unwillingness to accept criticism and an in-house review of the type prepared by the Ombudsman
did nothing but further undermine public confidence in the service. The SPSO website failed to return any search for
the council in question and Mr G could not find any mention of investigation number ‘1’ or Council ‘x’ on the main web
page, in the report archives or in the submissions to the Parliament. The 2002 Act provided that all reports must be
laid before the Parliament and failure to do so is a breach of the Act. He was aware of criticism of the SPSO’s practice
of not reporting complaints about its service.
8. Mr H MSP wrote to John Scott MSP about one of his constituents who had lodged a formal complaint with SPSO on 8
December 2005 and as at 9 December 2006 she was still unsure as to whether or not the SPSO would undertake an
investigation. The MSP also mentioned that he had 14 cases outstanding with the Ombudsman.
9. Mr J wrote to John Scott MSP having followed the SPSO’s complaints procedure for dealing with a complaint about
the level of services offered by the Ombudsman. He remained dissatisfied with the way in which his complaint had
been dealt with.
10. Mr K wrote to the Director of Resources & Governance and alleged that the SPSO has collaborated with her
professional advisers to provide false information, intentionally and with intention to deceive or secure unjust
enrichment, in her Annual Report and Accounts 2004-05.
11. Mr L wrote to the Presiding Officer claiming maladministration about the SPSO because the SPSO had not
undertaken to formally investigate his complaint.
12. Mr M wrote to the Presiding Officer about the treatment received from a member of the SPSO’s staff and the time
taken to deal with his complaint.
13. Mr N wrote to the Chief Executive complaining about the way his complaint had been dealt with by the SPSO and
the length of time taken.
14. Mr P wrote to the Presiding Officer to complain about the way his complaint had been dealt with by the SPSO and
the length of time taken.
Comparing what the SPSO preach to what they practise.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) has a web site called "SPSO valuing complaints (link)".
This site is dedicated to advising the Authorities under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
how to run a model complaints system.
I have taken some quotes from the site so the public can compare what the SPSO is preaching to what they themselves
I have also included some questions the public and Members of the Scottish Parliament should be asking the Scottish
Public Services Ombudsman.
1. Professor Brown states in the introduction to the site "An organisation that truly welcomes, values and uses
complaints to inspire and guide improvement will deliver better public services than one that does not. Professor Brown".
Question: Why does the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman not welcome complaints about their own performance
and service provided to the public?
2. "The outcome of an investigation into a complaint is a report."
Question: Why does the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman not investigate and report complaints about their own
3. "External reporting can be a powerful tool of public accountability. By publishing generalised complaints - and the results
of those complaints - in a public report, you can tell the public about the effectiveness of your organisation's complaint
management system and show how it compares to those of other organisations. Such a report should briefly describe the
complaint management system and include some basic data.
A positive outcome or improvement in service resulting from handling complaints may boost the public's confidence in
government services and programs in the long term. It is therefore important to publicly report on complaints analysis and to
show where this has led to improvements."
Question: why do the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman refuse to externally report any information on the
complaints made about the service they provide?
4. Two questions that you should ask of your organisation:
Has your organisation made service improvements after analysing problems highlighted by complaints?
Does your organisation publish information about complaints and their resolution, and make that information available to
Question: Why are our Members of the Scottish Parliament ignoring the facts that the Scottish Public Services
Ombudsman is telling the authorities and public how to run a model complaints system when the Scottish Public
Services Ombudsman does not accept complaints about themselves, does not investigate them and does not
externally report them?
All the public want is for the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to acknowledge their own performance
deficiencies and take action to start providing a quasi judicial service to all members of the public.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman is financed out of public funds and should be protecting the public
from cases of maladministration perpetrated by the authorities.