Whom and what you can complain about
The ombudsman supervises all public administration under Faroese Home Rule; this includes national, municipal and inter-municipal authorities. The ombudsman can investigate complaints about decisions made by the authorities, as well as about how they treat citizens and deal with cases. You can, for example, file a complaint about the rejection of an application, how it was processed, how long it has taken or how about a civil servant’s conduct.
The ombudsman exercises oversight over public authorities to prevent them from making mistakes or neglecting their duties, and to ensure that the public administration does not wrong any individual citizen.
Courts, the Faroese Parliament, businesses and private individuals are not public authorities; the ombudsman can therefore not investigate complaints about them. Danish authorities, such as the police force, are not included in the scope of Faroese Home Rule, the ombudsman can therefore not investigate complaints about these either. You are always welcome to ask us, if you are not sure whether you can complain to the ombudsman about a specific authority.
How you file a complaint
If you would like to file a complaint you must write to the ombudsman and explain whom and what you would like to complain about.
If you have authorized someone to file a complaint on your behalf, you must include a signed letter of credence when it is filed.
Annexing any relevant documents (letters from you, replies from the authorities, etc.) to the complaint would facilitate processing the complaint.
If you do you will often receive a reply sooner, because the ombudsman usually needs to see such documents.
What can the ombudsman do
If the ombudsman, having investigated the matter, concludes that he finds in favour of the complainant, he can criticise the authority in question. The ombudsman can also ask the authority to reconsider a matter and reach a different decision.
Please note that the ombudsman himself cannot change a decision. The ombudsman’s task is to explain to the authorities that he believes that they have made a mistake. In this regard, please bear in mind that the ombudsman has limited possibilities to take a position on decisions, which are purely based on assessments or decisions that require special qualifications (such as medical).
What happens when the ombudsman receives a complaint
The ombudsman has three possible responses to a complaint:
- Investigating the complaint.
- Rejecting the complaint, because the ombudsman cannot settle it.
- Choosing not to investigate.
1. Investigating the complaint.
If the ombudsman feels that a complaint should be investigated, he sends it to the authority concerned and requests its comments. At the same time he requests borrowing any documents relevant to the case. The authority’s comments are usually sent to the complainant, who then has the chance to make his own comments.
Complainants are usually informed of the progress in the investigation.
When the authority and the complainant have made their comments, the case is usually ready to be settled by the ombudsman. Depending the ombudsman’s workload and on how quickly the authority replies to the ombudsman, you should expect it to take around six months to settle a complaint.
2. The complaint is rejected.
The Faroese Parliament has in the Faroese Ombudsman Act (Act 60 dated May 10, 2000) limited when the ombudsman can investigate a complaint:
“A complaint concerning decisions that a possible higher authority may change cannot be submitted to the Ombudsman before the higher authority concerned has made its decisions on the matter...” (Art. 6.3).
If it is possible to appeal decision to another authority, this option must be exhausted before the ombudsman can investigate the case. Decisions that are notified in writing must include guidance on the possibility of an appeal, before you turn to the ombudsman. If you are unsure about this, you can contact the authority that made the decision or possibly the ombudsman’s office.
“...The complaint shall be submitted to the Ombudsman at the latest one year after the facts complained about took place.” (Art. 6.2).
The term “facts” encompasses everything you can complain to the ombudsman about, such as how a matter was processed, how long it took, the decision reached and conduct. This means that if you are complaining about a decision, it must have been reached within the last year.
If the complaint filed with the ombudsman contains information about circumstances not taken into account by the authority, the ombudsman will almost always send the complaint to the authority and ask it to consider these circumstances. The complainant is also informed of this and asked to withhold the complaint until the authority has reached a decision. If no new complaint is filed the ombudsman takes no further action.
3. The ombudsman chooses not to investigate
The Faroese Ombudsman Act states:
“The Ombudsman determines whether there is basis for further investigation in matters submitted as complaints.” (Art. 6.4).
The ombudsman is thus not obliged to process all complaints filed, but can refuse to investigate the complaint as a whole, or choose only to investigate certain facts included in the complaint.
The ombudsman always considers a complaint carefully before deciding to reject it. This decision is usually based on whether it is likely that the ombudsman can help the complainant.
The ombudsman often writes or calls the complainant or the authority to make sure that he has a solid basis for reaching a decision. This could involve requesting the relevant documents. A rejection of a complaint can thus be the result of a thorough investigation by the ombudsman.
The ombudsman may take up a matter out of own imitative
The ombudsman can also investigate a matter without any complaint having been filed. Media coverage may for example alert the ombudsman to a matter he wishes to investigate further.
Sometimes a complaint can lead to the ombudsman investigating matters that were not the subject of a complaint.
The ombudsman can, in accordance with Art. 6.5 and 8.3, investigate institutions and premises where services are provided that are included in his jurisdiction.