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Ombudsman's Office will have to wait "a few weeks" to sign off on "a small number of cases"

A lack of a system to handle the changeover in the Ombudsman’s Office means that there will be nobody to rubber stamp some cases.

The former Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly delivers her last annual report just two weeks ago.
The former Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly delivers her last annual report just two weeks ago.
Image: Photocall Ireland

THE OFFICE OF the Ombudsman will not not issue formal decision letters in Information Commissioner cases for the next month – because nobody has the authority to do so.

The office will also not issue investigation reports on Ombudsman’s Office complaints.

With Emily O’Reilly now the European Ombudsman, nobody holds the Irish office, which oversees the conduct of state agencies.

O’Reilly was elected European Ombudsman in July, but the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which oversees the Ombudsman, has yet to appoint a replacement.

A memo seen by TheJournal.ie tells staff that the Management Advisory Committee of the office hope to have a replacement for O’Reilly in place by early next month.

The memo goes on to say that settlements sought through the Information Commissioners Office will function as normal, formal decision letters will be withheld until a new person is in place.

While the office says that day-to-day functions will continue as normal, there will be nobody to rubber stamp a small amount of cases.

Typically, the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner only sign off on cases that are larger or, in some cases, set legal precedent.

A spokesperson for the Ombudsman’s Office says that the issue will affect only a small number of cases.

“In the interests of good governance and to minimise the impact on the public, we had a look at whether [not having an Ombudsman] had any impact on what we do.

The answer was that 99 per cent of what we do can go on.

“There is a small number of cases that can’t be signed off until there’s a new Ombudsman and Information Commissioner in place.”

Work will still go on, said the spokesperson, but signing of a small number of cases would have to wait.

Read: Tomorrow is Emily O’Reilly’s first day as European Ombudsman

Read: Want to be the next Ombudsman? Search to replace Emily O’Reilly begins

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