Our staff have the skills, competencies and experience to investigate complaints about public services in Scotland. They are selected on the basis of these skills. Previous experience of working in the sectors that fall within our jurisdiction can also be helpful to our investigations. It means the SPSO team, including our advisers, have a knowledge of and understand the context of your complaint, which in turn means you can have confidence in the SPSO’s handling of your complaint.
We understand though, that this past experience may occasionally concern some people. Past experience in the public sector is not automatically a conflict of interest but there are times when it might be. We recognise a potential conflict of interest may arise where one of our staff has previously worked with or knows, for other reasons, an individual involved in handling a complaint that is brought to SPSO. As a general principle, members of staff don’t normally work on any complaints about a body in which they worked (or with which they worked very closely) in the four years before taking up their position with SPSO. This is, however, at the discretion of the Ombudsman who may take a different view, depending on individual circumstances. If this is the case we will explain why and make sure we consider your concerns.
We also have a Conduct and Behaviour Policy which requires all staff to formally disclose wherever a potential conflict of interest may arise within their employment. This, together with our approach to quality checking the work we do demonstrates that we have robust measures in place to identify and manage any risk of a perception of bias, or indeed a conflict of interest.