Ombudsman: I should be able to receive Irish Water complaints

The Ombudsman has called for complaints about Irish Water to come back under his remit and said he was "not consulted" about the decision to remove it from his jurisdiction.

Speaking before an Oireachtas Committee, Peter Tyndall said he felt the decision to stop his office from receiving complaints about the implementation of the new water charges was “an oversight” and that he had asked Government to bring Irish Water, and the other utilities, back into the remit of his office.

He said there had been an increase in complaints this year “across the board,” including involving the recovery of repayment of benefits, but the complaints do not include those relating to Irish Water.

Yesterday the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) announced that it would be receiving complaints linked to Irish Water, but Mr Tyndall said this “voluntary agreement” was not the best way to allow redress for members of the public with complaints.

He told the Joint Committee on Public Service, Oversight and Petitions: “Irish Water will face many complaints and I think it was wholly wrong to take Irish Water out of the jurisdiction of this office at the point when there was going to be many complaints about Irish Water.”

Later he said: “I really think that in a sense that this was something that was simply an oversight. There wasn’t a conscious plan to change the arrangement for complaining about Irish Water. There was no plan.”

He said he believed the changes announced by the CER was “an attempt to put in place administratively something that should have been included in legislation”.

He said he was not consulted about the decision to remove Irish Water from his jurisdiction, adding: “One day you could complain to me, the next day you couldn’t.”

Under the new arrangement complaints about Irish Water can be made to the CER, in the same way that it can receive complaints about gas and electricity, but Mr Tyndall said regulators had a role in regulating, including price setting and looking at competition, and so there was “some conflict” between those roles and the right to redress for complainants. I think the sensible thing would be to bring Irish Water back and bring in the other utilities,” he said, adding that he had put that case to Government and he hoped they would respond positively.

He also called for complaints about prisons and direct provision to be made accessible to his office.

He also said his office should be able to receive complaints about clinical judgement in the health sector.


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