8.90Under the Ombudsmen Act 1975, Ombudsmen can investigate conduct by a public service agency or organisation (central or local government) that relates to a matter of administration affecting any person in a personal capacity. They cannot investigate the decisions of Ministers, but can look into the official advice on which Ministers base decisions.
8.91When investigating the actions of an agency, an Ombudsman may consult a Minister concerned with the matter, or a Minister who requests a meeting. An Ombudsman may also require anyone to provide any information that, in the Ombudsman's opinion, relates to the matter under investigation. Any person who is an officer or employee of any agency can be summoned to give information to an Ombudsman under oath. The Act makes it clear that compliance with such a request from an Ombudsman would not breach any obligation of security or non-disclosure.
8.92An Ombudsman may recommend that remedial action be taken if a complaint is found to be justified. A copy of the recommendation will be sent to the Minister as well as to the agency or organisation concerned. The recommendation is not binding, but the Ombudsman can report to the Prime Minister and subsequently to Parliament if dissatisfied with the action taken.
8.93Section 20 of the Ombudsmen Act 1975 precludes the Ombudsmen from requiring information to be given to them where the Attorney-General certifies that to do so might have certain specified effects: for example, the disclosure of the deliberations of Cabinet or the proceedings of Cabinet or Cabinet committees relating to matters of a secret or confidential nature.