FAQs

Q: What is an Ombudsman?

A:

The name Ombudsman has Swedish origins and translates roughly to “Citizen’s Representative.” Ombudsman offices exist around the world in many forms, but usually consist of an independent Office that investigates complaints and concerns of an administrative nature. Ombudsman is a gender-neutral title and may be used by any person in the role.

Q: What is the role of the Ombudsman?

A:

The Ombudsman investigates complaints and concerns about the administration of provincial and municipal public bodies. This includes complaints about departments, agencies, boards, commissions, as well as municipalities. For more information on the role of the Ombudsman check our What We Investigate page.

Q: Who is the Nova Scotia Ombudsman?

A:

William A. Smith was appointed Nova Scotia’s Ombudsman on June 1, 2016. The Office was established in 1971 by the Ombudsman Act.

Q: How does the Ombudsman have authority to investigate complaints?

A:

The Ombudsman Act and the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act provide the authority to investigate complaints and disclosures of wrongdoing from provincial government employees and the public.

Q: Who can the Nova Scotia Ombudsman investigate?

A:

The Ombudsman may investigate Nova Scotia Provincial Government Departments, Nova Scotia Government Agencies, Boards, and Commissions, and all Municipalities within Nova Scotia. 

Q: What agencies is the Ombudsman unable to investigate?

A:

The Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints about Federal government departments or about the private sector, or private citizens. The Ombudsman is also unable to investigate the decisions of judges or elected officials.

Q: If the Nova Scotia Ombudsman cannot investigate, then who can?

A:

Many organizations have some type of independent oversight, or complaint resolution process. If you are unsure who to contact, the Office of the Ombudsman may be able to provide you with referral and contact information to address your concern.

Q: What does it cost to contact the Ombudsman?

A:

Ombudsman services are free of charge.

Q: Who can make a complaint?

A:

Anyone can make a complaint to the Ombudsman. 

Q: What happens after I make a complaint?

A:

Complaints will be assessed to determine if the Office has the authority to proceed with an administrative review or investigation, including whether a more appropriate avenue of redress exists. In some cases, the individual or complainant will be referred to another agency. The Office of the Ombudsman is considered an office of last resort. If a department has a complaint process in place, or if there is a legislated avenue of appeal, you may be directed to follow those processes first.

If it is determined that a complaint requires further review it will be assigned to an Ombudsman Representative. In most cases Ombudsman Representatives will conduct what we call an Administrative Review. Most complaints are resolved through this process. Complaints unresolved through Administrative Reviews may be subject to Formal Investigation. The Office of the Ombudsman makes every effort to resolve complaints in a timely manner. Nonetheless, there are no specific timelines for complaint resolution. Formal Investigations can be expected to last several weeks to several months.

Q: Will my complaint remain confidential?

A:

Efforts are made to protect the confidentiality of complainants. All staff at the Office of the Ombudsman swear or affirm an oath of confidentiality. Office records are exempt from Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy requests and are inadmissible in court. Having said that, the process of investigation may require disclosure of the complainant’s information to the responding agency. Ombudsman Representatives are also required to refer allegations of child abuse, or instances where a child/youth may be in need of protection to Child Welfare Services.

Q: What “power” does the Ombudsman have?

A:

The Ombudsman may make recommendations to improve gaps or deficiencies in the administration of legislation, policy, and procedures. Ombudsman Representatives may also help resolve complaints through informal means such as re-opening lines of communication and making referrals.

Q: Does the Ombudsman issue reports on investigations?

A:

Formal investigations are concluded with an investigative report. Reports are released at the discretion of the Ombudsman.

Q: Does the Ombudsman report on investigations, recommendations, and activities publicly?

A:

The Ombudsman reports on investigations, recommendations and activities annually in an Annual Report to the House of Assembly and the report is available publicly. Annual Reports are available here.
  

Q: How does the Ombudsman ensure recommendations are followed?

A:

The implementation of recommendations are monitored by Ombudsman Representatives.