The Ombudsman is an officer who investigates administrative decisions and actions of the government for free. Administrative decisions are decisions made by a government department that directly affect an individual – for example, granting a person their driver’s licence or passport.
The Ombudsman works independently from the Government of Alberta, which guarantees each complaint is looked at fairly.
If a person is unhappy with a government or professional organization decision or action, they can go through the following steps:
A person must first go through the internal appeal process of that particular department. Most government departments have an internal appeal process that deals with complaints about decisions or actions. If the internal appeal process of a certain department is unclear, contact the department, or visit their website for information.
If a person is still dissatisfied after going through the internal appeal process, they can contact the Ombudsman to request assistance. This option is only available after completing the internal appeal process. Official complaints to the Ombudsman must be made in writing and can be made online. An online complaint form is available on the Alberta Ombudsman website under the link entitled, “File an Online Complaint”.
In the application, a person must provide information about the complaint and include all steps they have taken to try to resolve the complaint themselves. This information could include contacting the department supervisor or participating in a formal appeal hearing.
If the Ombudsman approves a complaint for investigation, the office sends a letter to the appropriate government department. This letter notifies the department of the investigation and requests a detailed response from the department about the matter.
The Ombudsman can gather the necessary information and evidence for the investigation. Information is necessary if it speaks to the purpose of the complaint. After the information is gathered, the Ombudsman considers whether there were any errors in the government decision.
The Ombudsman’s investigation will determine that either there was an error when making the decision, or there was no error and government’s actions were fair and proper.
If there is an error, the Ombudsman cannot change a government decision; it can only make recommendations to the appropriate department. The recommended action may include an apology or change in the organization’s operating procedures.
The Ombudsman investigator reviews the investigation findings with the individual lodging the complaint and advises them of the investigation outcome. Each individual has the guarantee that an independent and fair investigation has taken place.
If a complaint cannot be resolved, the Ombudsman may report it to the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Alberta Legislative Assembly. The Ombudsman may also make the matter public if it is in the public interest, which creates political pressure and influences public opinion.
The Ombudsman does not have the power to order government actions, but its powers of persuasion can be very effective. In most instances, government representatives are willing to resolve reasonable complaints. Formal reports to the Lieutenant Governor in Council, the Legislative Assembly or the public are rarely required.
The Ombudsman’s office will investigate administrative decisions and actions taken by an Alberta body only. The Ombudsman cannot investigate the actions and decisions of;
The Ombudsman cannot investigate disputes between private individuals – for example, two neighbours or former coworkers. However, the Office of the Ombudsman suggest where to make this type of complaint. Assistance could involve directing individuals to the appropriate body or complaint mechanism to deal with their specific concerns.
The Ombudsman has offices located in Edmonton and Calgary. The telephone number for the Edmonton Office is 780- 427-2756 (toll free in Alberta by first dialing 310-0000) and the Calgary Office is 403-297-6185.