The Office of the Althingi Ombudsman
The Althingi Ombudsman is elected by Althingi for periods of four years. He shall fulfil the conditions provided by law for appointment to the Supreme Court. In his work the Ombudsman is independent and takes orders from nobody, Althingi included.
What is the role of the Althingi Ombudsman?
The role of the Althingi Ombudsman is to monitor the administration of the State and local authorities and safeguard the rights of the citizens vis-à-vis the authorities. The Ombudsman shall take pains to ensure that the principle of equality is observed and that administration is in other respects conducted in conformity with the law and good administrative practice.
The jurisdiction of the Althingi Ombudsman
The Althingi Ombudsman monitors the administration of the State and local authorities, as well as the activities of private bodies insofar as they have been by law vested with authority to decide as to individuals' rights and obligations. Consequently, complaints may be lodged with the Ombudsman about decisions, procedures and conduct exercised by officials of ministries and government agencies and other bodies engaged in State administration. The same applies in the case of officials of local authorities and others who are engaged in administration for municipalities, as well as to employees of private bodies inasmuch as these have been by law vested with authority to decide as to individuals' rights and obligations.
What falls outside the jurisdiction of the Althingi Ombudsman?
Among the matters outside the Ombudsman's jurisdiction are:
- The proceedings of Althingi
- The proceedings of the courts of law
- Decisions by the authorities, which shall be put to the courts, as provided by law
- Differences between individuals
How much does it cost to turn to the Althingi Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman takes up cases free of charge for those who bring them.
Who may bring complaints to the Althingi Ombudsman?
Any person who feels unfairly treated by the authorities may lodge a complaint with the Althingi Ombudsman. All individuals, whether Icelandic nationals or aliens, may complain to the Ombudsman. The same applies in the case of associations and bodies formed by individuals.
Conditions for the taking up of a case by the Althingi Ombudsman
Among the conditions for the taking up of a case by the Ombudsman are the following: When a decision by an authority gives rise to a complaint and it can be appealed to a higher authority, eg. a cabinet minister, it must first be referred to the higher authority before a complaint can be lodged with the Althingi Ombudsman. However, complaints involving, for instance, a delay in the conclusion of a case, or the conduct of a civil servant, may be lodged directly with the Ombudsman. A complaint must be lodged with the Ombudsman within a year of the notification to a party of the decision which forms the object of the complaint. A complaint to the Ombudsman must be submitted in writing. A special form is available for that purpose. If need be, and, insofar as possible, the Ombudsman's staff will help with the drafting of a complaint.
How is a case examined?
The Ombudsman may demand from the authorities such information as he may require in the carrying out of his task,including reports, documents, records and other items. He may summon adminstrative officials to give oral information and reports. The Ombudsman has, furthermore, free access to the premises of the authorities in order to carry out investigations for his official purposes. Should the Ombudsman decide, following a preliminary investigation of a case, to examine it further, he will give the authority concerned an opportunity to present its case.
The conclusion of a case
Cases which undergo further investigation are normally concluded through an act of remedy by the authority involved, or an opinion issued by the Ombudsman as to whether the authority has by its actions infringed the law or good administrative practice. Where the actions of an authority form the object of reproach or criticism by the Ombudsman he will address to such authority a recommendation to make amends.
Is a conlusion of the Althingi Ombudsman binding on the authorities?
Conclusions by the Althingi Ombudsman in cases submitted for his consideration are not by law binding on the authorities, yet they are normally followed. Where a public authority does not heed a finding of the Althingi Ombudsman he may recommend that the party concerned be given legal aid in a lawsuit against the authority in question. The Ombudsman reports annually to Althingi on his work, detailing inter alia how cases have been concluded and the subsequent action by the authorities.
The Office of the Althingi Ombudsman
For further information and instructions turn to the office of the Althingi Ombudsman at Þórshamar, Templarasund 5, Reykjavík, Postal code: 101 Reykjavík.
Telephone: (354) 510 6700, Call toll free: 800 6450, Telefax: (354) 510 6701, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Skúli Magnússon Parliamentary Ombudsman of Iceland