The Department of Agriculture’s quality service unit received 30 customer service complaints in 2018.
This does not include requests for reviews or appeals against actual decisions, there is a separate appeals process for these.
The department’s customer service complaints procedure can be availed of by farmers who feel the department falls short of providing a user-friendly, high-quality service.
Complaints should first be directed to the senior officer in charge of the business area to which the complaint pertains.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the response received from the relevant business area, the complaint can be sent to the quality service unit, which will have the matter fully and impartially investigated by an officer not involved in the matter
If dissatisfied after these steps, it is open to the complainant to contact the Office of the Ombudsman, which examines complaints from people who feel they have been unfairly treated by certain public bodies, including government departments.
Responding in the Dail to a question on the matter from Independent Dublin Bay North TD Tommy Broughan, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said the complaints, in general, involved dissatisfaction with delays in responses to correspondence, delays in payments, lack of notice for inspections, and complaints regarding department staff.
The total number of Ombudsman cases involving the Department of Agriculture was 66 in 2016, 43 in 2017, and 45 in 2018.
Many of these are appeals to the Ombudsman against decisions in the operation of a scheme or service rather than complaints concerning customer service.
Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring has told the Dáil his department received only one complaint via its formal complaints procedures since the department was established in July, 2017.
The complaint arose when a member of the public who corresponded with the department in Irish was responded to in English.
The person concerned, and the Coimisinéir Teanga, subsequently accepted the department’s apology, and the matter was closed.