- Report no:TH0024_04
- Date:March 2009
- Body:Crofters Commission
- Sector(s):Scottish Government and Devolved Administration
The complainant (Mrs C) made 43 separate complaints to the Ombudsman's office about the Crofters Commission (the Commission). The Ombudsman decided to investigate 28 of these complaints, which have been grouped together and investigated under seven separate heads of complaint. The complaints investigated include delay and inaction relating to an apportionment application, failure to take action with regard to the conduct of a Grazings Clerk, delay in providing Minutes and Accounts, mishandling and falsely reporting an Annual General Meeting, failing to deal with and resolve acceptably complaints about the financial accounts of a Grazings Committee, failure to give adequate notice of a meeting, wrongly calling this meeting and recording inappropriate and false statements in the Commission minutes; and failure in the handling of a second application for apportionment.
Specific complaints and conclusions
The complaints which have been investigated are that the Commission:
- (a) delayed and did not take action in respect of an application for apportionment (upheld);
- (b) failed to take prompt or effective action in respect of the conduct of the Grazings Clerk (upheld);
- (c) delayed in providing the requested Minutes and Accounts for an Annual General Meeting held on 30 March 2001 (partially upheld);
- (d) seriously mishandled an Annual General Meeting held on 14 December 2001, produced a false report of that meeting and refused to correct the report or apologise (not upheld);
- (e) failed to deal with complaints made about the financial accounts of the Grazings Committee, including failure to provide correct information on dealing with a formal complaint and putting forward an unacceptable solution to resolve the complaint (partially upheld);
- (f) failed to give adequate notice of a meeting that took place on 22 July 2002, wrongly called and conducted the meeting and recorded inappropriate and false statements in the Commission minutes (partially upheld);
- (g) failed in the handling of an application for a small area of apportionment out of the Common Grazings (partially upheld).
Redress and recommendations
The Ombudsman recommends that the Commission:
- (i) put systems in place to ensure that their staff know how to deal with representations received after an apportionment has been granted;
- (ii) put guidance in place to ensure that both the Commission and the crofting community are clear about the role of the Commission in relation to disputes between shareholders, and between a shareholder and a Grazings Committee;
- (iii) give consideration to the merits of introducing a process whereby an individual shareholder can request an investigation of an alleged breach of the Grazings Regulations;
- (iv) give consideration to introducing an appropriate mechanism to assist in the resolution of disputes between a shareholder and a Grazings Committee;
- (v) Chief Executive reports to the Commission that Mrs C could not have expected that a meeting needed to take place before 27 July 2002 and that the Commission provides a response to Mrs C in relation to this matter; and
- (vi) provide Mrs C with a meaningful apology for the shortcomings identified in the Report.