The investigation of complaints
How the Standards Commissioner investigates complaints
If the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life decides that a complaint is inadmissible or that he should not investigate it, he will write to the complainant to say why.
If the Commissioner decides to investigate the complaint, at some point prior to making a recommendation he will forward the complaint to the person who is the subject of the complaint and ask that person for his or her reactions. This is in keeping with the requirements of the law and the principles of natural justice.
Before or after seeking the views of the person who is the subject of a complaint, the Standards Commissioner can make such other inquiries as he considers necessary for his investigation. By law, the Commissioner can summon witnesses to give evidence and produce documents.
The Commissioner must suspend his investigation if the case he is investigating becomes the subject of legal proceedings, an inquest by the Court of Magistrates, or a police investigation. The Commissioner himself can refer a case to the police (or another authority) if he considers this necessary. In this case too the Commissioner must suspend his investigation, but he is empowered to ask the police for updates about their own investigation and when they expect to conclude it.
Investigations by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should normally be concluded within six months. If an investigation goes beyond six months the Commissioner must submit a report explaining the delay to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in his capacity as chairperson of Parliament’s Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life. This procedure must be repeated at further six-month intervals if the investigation is still not concluded.
What happens after an investigation
If the Standards Commissioner finds that a complaint is justified, he can present a case report to Parliament’s Standing Committee for Standards in Public Life. The Commissioner will notify the complainant and the person who has been investigated that he has concluded his investigation and forwarded his case report to the Committee. The Standards Committee will consider the report and decide what further action should be taken.
If, however, it appears to the Commissioner that a breach of ethics is not serious in nature and it can be remedied by the person under investigation, he will propose action by way of a remedy. If that action is carried out, the Commissioner will close the case and present a report to the Standards Committee for information purposes only. The Commissioner will also send copies of the report to the complainant and the person who has been investigated.
Alternatively, if it appears from the Commissioner’s investigation that a criminal offence has been committed, he will refer the case to the police and inform the chairperson of the Committee accordingly.
If the Commissioner finds that a complaint is not justified, he will send his case report to the complainant and the person who has been investigated. He will also send the report to the Standards Committee for information only and the case will be considered closed.
The Commissioner’s case reports are normally published once cases are closed.
If you make a complaint, you must disclose your identity to the Commissioner since he cannot by law consider anonymous complaints. The Commissioner may ask you to verify your identity (for example, by providing your identity card number).
The Commissioner normally forwards your complaint to the person who is the subject of the complaint and reproduces it in his case report. However, you can ask the Commissioner to do so without disclosing your name. If this is your preference, please make it clear to the Commissioner when you submit your complaint. In such a case your identity will not be disclosed outside the Commissioner’s office.
If you ask for your identity not to be disclosed, but it turns out that the Commissioner cannot investigate your complaint without disclosing information that might reveal who you are, he or a member of his staff will discuss this with you.
Your complaint and any other correspondence with the Commissioner and his office will be kept on file within the Commissioner’s office. However, only the Commissioner and his staff (who are bound by an oath of confidentiality) will have access to the file.
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