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Parliamentary Ombudsman Act


(197/2002)

 


CHAPTER 1 - OVERSIGHT OF LEGALITY

Section 1 - Subjects of the Parliamentary Ombudsman's oversight

(1)   For the purposes of this Act, subjects of oversight shall, in accordance with Section 109 (1) of the Constitution of Finland, be defined as courts of law, other authorities, officials, employees of public bodies and also other parties performing public tasks.


(2)   In addition, as provided for in Sections 112 and 113 of the Constitution, the Ombudsman shall oversee the legality of the decisions and actions of the Government, the Ministers and the President of the Republic. The provisions set forth below in relation to subjects of oversight apply in so far as appropriate also to the Government, the Ministers and the President of the Republic.

 

Section 2 - Complaint

(1)   A complaint in a matter within the Ombudsman's remit may be filed by anyone who thinks a subject has acted unlawfully or neglected a duty in the performance of their task.


(2)   The complaint shall be filed in writing. It shall contain the name and contact particulars of the complainant, as well as the necessary information on the matter to which the complaint relates.

 

Section 3 - Investigation of a complaint (20.5.2011/535)

 
(1) The Ombudsman shall investigate a complaint if the matter to which it relates falls within his or her remit and if there is reason to suspect that the subject has acted unlawfully or neglected a duty or if the Ombudsman for another reason takes the view that doing so is warranted.

(2) Arising from a complaint made to him or her, the Ombudsman shall take the measures that he or she deems necessary from the perspective of compliance with the law, protection under the law or implementation of fundamental and human rights. Information shall be procured in the matter as deemed necessary by the Ombudsman.


(3) The Ombudsman shall not investigate a complaint relating to a matter more than two years old, unless there is a special reason for doing so.

(4) The Ombudsman must without delay notify the complainant if no measures are to be taken in a matter by virtue of paragraph 3 or because it is not within the Ombudsman's remit, it is pending before a competent authority, it is appealable through regular appeal procedures, or for another reason. The Ombudsman can at the same time inform the complainant of the legal remedies available in the matter and give other necessary guidance.

(5) The Ombudsman can transfer handling of a complaint to a competent authority if the nature of the matter so warrants. The complainant must be notified of the transfer. The authority must inform the Ombudsman of its decision or other measures in the matter within the deadline set by the Ombudsman.
 
(6) Separate provisions shall apply to a transfer of a complaint between the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Chancellor of Justice of the Government.


Section 4 - Own initiative  

The Ombudsman may also, on his or her own initiative, take up a matter within his or her remit.

 

Section 5 - Inspections

(1)   The Ombudsman shall carry out the on-site inspections of public offices and institutions necessary to monitor matters within his or her remit. Specifically, the Ombudsman shall carry out inspections in prisons and other closed institutions to oversee the treatment of inmates, as well as in the various units of the Defence Forces and Finnish peacekeeping contingents to monitor the treatment of conscripts, other military personnel and peacekeepers.


(2)   In the context of an inspection, the Ombudsman and his or her representatives have the right of access to all premises and information systems of the public office or institution, as well as the right to have confidential discussions with the personnel of the office or institution and the inmates there.

 

Section 6 - Executive assistance

The Ombudsman has the right to executive assistance free of charge from the authorities as he or she deems necessary, as well as the right to obtain the required copies or printouts of the documents and files of the authorities and other subjects.

 

Section 7 - Right of the Ombudsman to information

The right of the Ombudsman to receive information necessary for his or her oversight of legality is regulated by Section 111 (1) of the Constitution.

 

Section 8 - Ordering a police inquiry or a pre-trial investigation

The Ombudsman may order that a police inquiry, as referred to in the Police Act (493/1995), or a pre-trial investigation, as referred to in the Pre-trial Investigations Act (449/1987), be carried out in order to clarify a matter under investigation by the Ombudsman.

 

Section 9 - Hearing a subject

If there is reason to believe that the matter may give rise to criticism as to the conduct of the subject, the Ombudsman shall reserve the subject an opportunity to be heard in the matter before it is decided.

 

Section 10 - Reprimand and opinion

(1)   If, in a matter within his or her remit, the Ombudsman concludes that a subject has acted unlawfully or neglected a duty, but considers that a criminal charge or disciplinary proceedings are nonetheless unwarranted in this case, the Ombudsman may issue a reprimand to the subject for future guidance.


(2)   If necessary, the Ombudsman may express to the subject his or her opinion concerning what constitutes proper observance of the law, or draw the attention of the subject to the requirements of good administration or to considerations of fundamental and human rights.

 

Section 11 - Recommendation

(1)   In a matter within the Ombudsman's remit, he or she may issue a recommendation to the competent authority that an error be redressed or a shortcoming rectified.


(2)   In the performance of his or her duties, the Ombudsman may draw the attention of the Government or another body responsible for legislative drafting to defects in legislation or official regulations, as well as make recommendations concerning the development of these and the elimination of the defects.

 


CHAPTER 2 - REPORT TO THE PARLIAMENT AND DECLARATION OF INTERESTS

 

Section 12 - Report

(1)   The Ombudsman shall submit to the Parliament an annual report on his or her activities and the state of administration of justice, public administration and the performance of public tasks, as well as on defects observed in legislation, with special attention to implementation of fundamental and human rights.


(2)   The Ombudsman may also submit a special report to the Parliament on a matter he or she deems to be of importance.


(3)   In connection with the submission of reports, the Ombudsman may make recommendations to the Parliament concerning the elimination of defects in legislation. If a defect relates to a matter under deliberation in the Parliament, the Ombudsman may also otherwise communicate his or her observations to the relevant body within the Parliament.

 


Section 13 - Declaration of interests (24.8.2007/804)

(1)   A person elected to the position of Ombudsman, Deputy-Ombudsman or as a substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman shall without delay submit to the Parliament a declaration of business activities and assets and duties and other interests which may be of relevance in the evaluation of his or her activity as Ombudsman, Deputy-Ombudsman or substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman.


(2)   During their term in office, the Ombudsman, the Deputy-Ombudsmen and the substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman shall without delay declare any changes to the information referred to in paragraph (1) above.

CHAPTER 3 - GENERAL PROVISIONS ON THE OMBUDSMAN, THE DEPUTY-OMBUDSMEN AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE (20.5.2011/535)
 
Section 14 - Competence of the Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen

(1)   The Ombudsman has sole competence to make decisions in all matters falling within his or her remit under the law. Having heard the opinions of the Deputy-Ombudsmen, the Ombudsman shall also decide on the allocation of duties among the Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen.


(2)   The Deputy-Ombudsmen have the same competence as the Ombudsman to consider and decide on those oversight-of-legality matters that the Ombudsman has allocated to them or that they have taken up on their own initiative.


(3)   If a Deputy-Ombudsman deems that in a matter under his or her consideration there is reason to issue a reprimand for a decision or action of the Government, a Minister or the President of the Republic, or to bring a charge against the President or a Justice of the Supreme Court or the Supreme Administrative Court, he or she shall refer the matter to the Ombudsman for a decision.

 

Section 15 - Decision making by the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman or a Deputy-Ombudsman shall make their decisions on the basis of drafts prepared by referendary officials, unless they specifically decide otherwise in a given case.

 


Section 16 - Substitution (24.8.2007/804)

(1)   If the Ombudsman dies in office or resigns, and the Parliament has not elected a successor, his or her duties shall be performed by the senior Deputy-Ombudsman.


(2)   The senior Deputy-Ombudsman shall perform the duties of the Ombudsman also when the latter is recused or otherwise prevented from attending to his or her duties, as provided for in greater detail in the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.


(3)   Having received the opinion of the Constitutional Law Committee on the matter, the Parliamentary Ombudsman shall choose a substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman for the term in office of not more than four years.

(4)   When a Deputy-Ombudsman is recused or otherwise prevented from attending to his or her duties, these shall be performed by the Ombudsman or the other Deputy-Ombudsman as provided for in greater detail in the Rules of Procedure of the Office, unless the Ombudsman, as provided for in Section 19 a, paragraph 1, invites a substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman to perform the Deputy-Ombudsman's tasks. When a substitute is performing the tasks of a Deputy-Ombudsman, the provisions of paragraphs (1) and (2) above concerning a Deputy-Ombudsman shall not apply to him or her.

 

 

Section 17 - Other duties and leave of absence

(1)   During their term of service, the Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen shall not hold other public offices. In addition, they shall not have public or private duties that may compromise the credibility of their impartiality as overseers of legality or otherwise hamper the appropriate performance of their duties as Ombudsman or Deputy-Ombudsman.


(2)   If the person elected as Ombudsman, Deputy-Ombudsman or Director of the Human Rights Centre holds a State office, he or she shall be granted leave of absence from it for the duration of their term of service as as Ombudsman, Deputy-Ombudsman or Director of the Human Rights Centre. (20.5.2011/535)

 

 

Section 18 - Remuneration

(1)   The Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen shall be remunerated for their service. The Ombudsman's remuneration shall be determined on the same basis as the salary of the Chancellor of Justice of the Government and that of the Deputy-Ombudsmen on the same basis as the salary of the Deputy Chancellor of Justice.


(2)   If a person elected as Ombudsman or Deputy-Ombudsman is in a public or private employment relationship, he or she shall forgo the remuneration from that employment relationship for the duration of their term. For the duration of their term, they shall also forgo any other perquisites of an employment relationship or other office to which they have been elected or appointed and which could compromise the credibility of their impartiality as overseers of legality.

 

Section 19 - Annual vacation

The Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen are each entitled to annual vacation time of a month and a half.

Section 19 a - Substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman (24.8.2007/804)

(1)   A substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman can perform the duties of a Deputy-Ombudsman if the latter is prevented from attending to them or if a Deputy-Ombudsman's post has not been filled. The Ombudsman shall decide on inviting a substitute to perform the tasks of a Deputy-Ombudsman.
(20.5.2011/535)

(2)   The provisions of this and other Acts concerning a Deputy-Ombudsman shall apply mutatis mutandis also to a substitute for a Deputy-Ombudsman while he or she is performing the tasks of a Deputy-Ombudsman, unless separately otherwise regulated.


CHAPTER 3 A - HUMAN RIGHTS CENTRE (20.5.2011/535)
 
 
Section 19 b - Purpose of the Human Rights Centre

For the promotion of fundamental and human rights there shall be a Human Rights Centre under the auspices of the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
 
 
Section 19 c - The Director of the Human Rights Centre

(1) The Human Rights Centre shall have a Director, who must have good familiarity with fundamental and human rights. Having received the Constitutional Law Committee's opinion on the matter, the Parliamentary Ombudsman shall appoint the Director for a four-year term.

(2) The Director shall be tasked with heading and representing the Human Rights Centre as well as resolving those matters within the remit of the Human Rights Centre that are not assigned under the provisions of this Act to the Human Rights Delegation.

 
Section 19 d - Tasks of the Human Rights Centre

(1) The tasks of the Human Rights Centre are:
1) to promote information, education, training and research concerning fundamental and human rights as well as cooperation relating to them;
2) to draft reports on implementation of fundamental and human rights;
3) to present initiatives and issue statements in order to promote and implement fundamental and human rights;
4) to participate in European and international cooperation associated with promoting and safeguarding fundamental and human rights;
5) to take care of other comparable tasks associated with promoting and implementing fundamental and human rights.

(2) The Human Rights Centre does not handle complaints.
 
(3) In order to perform its tasks, the Human Rights Centre shall have the right to receive the necessary information and reports free of charge from the authorities.

Section 19 e - Human Rights Delegation
 
(1) The Human Rights Centre shall have a Human Rights Delegation, which the Parliamentary Ombudsman, having heard the view of the Director of the Human Rights Centre, shall appoint for a four-year term. The Director of the Human Rights Centre shall chair the Human Rights Delegation. In addition, the Delegation shall have not fewer than 20 and no more than 40 members. The Delegation shall comprise representatives of civil society, research in the field of fundamental and human rights as well as of other actors participating in the promotion and safeguarding of fundamental and human rights. The Delegation shall choose a deputy chair from among its own number. If a member of the Delegation resigns or dies mid-term, the Ombudsman shall appoint a replacement for him or her for the remainder of the term.

(2) The Office Commission of the Parliament shall confirm the remuneration of the members of the Delegation.

(3) The tasks of the Delegation are:
1) to deal with matters of fundamental and human rights that are far-reaching and important in principle;

2) to approve annually the Human Rights Centre's operational plan and the Centre's annual report;

3) to act as a national cooperative body for actors in the sector of fundamental and human rights.
 
(4) A quorum of the Delegation shall be present when the chair or the deputy chair as well as at least half of the members are in attendance. The opinion that the majority has supported shall constitute the decision of the Delegation. In the event of a tie, the chair shall have the casting vote.

 
(5) To organise its activities, the Delegation may have a work committee and sections. The Delegation may adopt rules of procedure.

CHAPTER 4 - OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY OMBUDSMAN AND THE DETAILED PROVISIONS (20.5.2011/535)
 
Section 20 - Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and detailed provisions
 
For the preliminary processing of cases for decision by the Ombudsman and the performance of the other duties of the Ombudsman as well as for the discharge of the tasks assigned to the Human Rights Centre, there shall be an office headed by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

 
Section 21 - Staff Regulations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Rules of Procedure of the Office (20.5.2011/535)
 
(1) The positions in the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the special qualifications for those positions shall be set forth in the Staff Regulations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
 
(2) The Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman shall contain more detailed provisions on the allocation of tasks among the Ombudsman and the Deputy-Ombudsmen. Also determined in the Rules of Procedure shall be substitution arrangements for the Ombudsman, the Deputy-Ombudsmen and the Director of the Human Rights Centre as well as the duties of the office staff and the cooperation procedures to be observed in the Office.
 
(3) The Ombudsman shall confirm the Rules of Procedure of the Office having heard the views of the Deputy-Ombudsman and the Director of the Human Rights Centre.


CHAPTER 5 - ENTRY INTO FORCE AND TRANSITIONAL PROVISION

 

Section 22 - Entry into force

This Act enters into force on 1 April 2002.

 

Section 23 - Transitional provision

The persons performing the duties of Ombudsman and Deputy-Ombudsman shall declare their interests, as referred to in Section 13, within one month of the entry into force of this Act.
...
 
20.5.2011/535
 
This Act shall enter into force on 1 January 2012.
Section 3 and the first paragraph of Section 19 a  of the Act shall, however, enter into force on 1 June 2011.
The measures necessary to launch the activities of the Human Rights Centre may be taken before the entry into force of the Act.
...