IN Chapter 8 we noted the difference between adversarial and inquisitorial styles of fact-finding. In this chapter we will examine the use of formal inquisitorial (or investigative) techniques as a means of resolving complaints against government. Investigating officials are most often referred to by the convenient, but unfortunately gender-specific, term of 'ombudsman'.1 I shall refer to the mode of operation of ombudsmen as the 'investigatory' technique to distinguish it from adversarial factfinding.
Designating someone in an organization, whether public or private, to deal with 'customer' complaints is, of course, not a recent development, but the importance of making specific provision within government for handling complaints has been reasserted in the Citizen's Charter. The appointment of complaints officers who are external to and independent of the organization complained against is now also very common in the private as well as in the public sector. It began with the creation of the office of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (PCA) in 1967. The PCA deals with complaints against central government; the Health Service Commissioners (HSC) (there are three posts, one each for England, Scotland and Wales, all held by the PCA) with the National Health Service, and the Commission for Local Administration (CLA) with local government. In Northern Ireland there is a Parliamentary Commissioner, and a Commissioner for Complaints who deals with local authorities and other public bodies.2
The office of the PCA3 was conceived, in part, as a way of making up for deficiencies and gaps in judicial and parliamentary mechanisms for____________________