The SPSO Act 2002 says that the SPSO can only investigate a complaint relating to maladministration or service failure which a member of the public feels has caused them injustice or hardship. The SPSO Act does not define 'maladministration'. A dictionary definition of the term is 'bad, inefficient or dishonest administration'. This can cover things like unreasonable delay, rudeness, failure to apply the law or rules properly.
Further examples (the so called 'Crossman' and 'Reid' lists) can be found in an Annex to the Scottish Government document A modern complaints system: The new Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.
The term 'service failure' covers failure in a service provided or failure to provide a service which should be provided. The SPSO Act 2002 says that the SPSO cannot question the merits of a decision taken without maladministration. This means we cannot look at a complaint just because somebody is unhappy about something a public body has done (or not done). There has to some evidence of maladministration or service failure.
For information about how we look into complaints please visit the Our Process section of this website.
Updated 26 May 2010