This is the governance statement taken from our annual report 2015-16.
As Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, in statute and by warrant of Her Majesty, I am responsible for the sound governance and effective internal control of the Ombudsman service.
The Ombudsman service makes final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other UK public organisations. We do this independently and impartially as a free service, open to everyone.
The Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967 and the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993, respectively, define two statutory roles of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Parliamentary Ombudsman) and Health Service Commissioner for England (the Health Service Ombudsman) which are combined in my post as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).
A Regulatory Reform Order enables the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman to carry out joint investigations.
In law, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is a corporation sole and has a personal jurisdiction. This is not consistent with modern requirements of good governance.
I have therefore established a unitary Board which I chair. As Chair I can call upon a range of independent expertise from both external, independent non-executives with appropriate skills and from a team of qualified and experienced executive officers.
Structure of governance
The Board makes collective decisions on the strategic direction and performance of the PHSO service. It carries no responsibility for individual cases. That remains with me personally, as Ombudsman.
The Board is of the view that its members have an appropriate and diverse mix of skills, experience and qualities to perform its duties effectively. The Board comprised 11 members (seven non-executive and four executive officers) at the end of 2015-16. It is supported by four committees: Audit; Remuneration and Nominations; Joint Convergence; and Quality: each of which is chaired by a non-executive member.
As Ombudsman, I have delegated to the Chief Executive (previously Managing Director) responsibility for putting into effect the policy and strategy of the Board, including day-to-day operational management, the proper use of public resources and governance arrangements.
The Chief Executive (CEO) carries out their work with the support of an Executive Team whose performance is overseen by the Board. The non-executive members assist me in holding to account the Executive Team against their objectives.
Advised by HM Treasury, we established contractual responsibility for the CEO to be the Accountable Officer with executive responsibility for effective control arrangements. This enables me, as Accounting Officer, to have a separate, accountable person charged with stewardship of public money. The CEO carries principal responsibility for the use of resources against our strategic and annual plans.
My primary accountability as Ombudsman is for the handling of complaints. To ensure that this extensive casework is managed within a defined system of appropriate oversight, I have a scheme of delegated authority to the responsible officers, chief of whom is the Deputy Ombudsman. In 2015-16, this was the Managing Director. The Board scrutinises overall performance of this work but not individual cases whose determination lies with the officers specified in the scheme of delegation.
Our governance structure
View a graphic which shows our current governance structure.
As Ombudsman, I perform three roles.
I have statutory responsibility for final decisions on individual cases under our delegation scheme. I act personally where we identify big or repeated mistakes that may have system-wide relevance.
I am accountable to Parliament as Accounting Officer for the stewardship of our resources. I discharge this through assurance from the CEO (the Accountable Officer) and Executive Team, and through Board and Audit Committee assurance and challenge.
As Chair of the Board I answer to Parliament and am scrutinised by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee. As the Board’s leader, I promote collective decision-making. I reserve the right, given my statutory role, to depart from the Board’s decisions but only as a last resort and with a commitment to put my reasons in writing.
My executive responsibilities as corporation sole are thus not exercised personally as an individual but by means of defined and corporate arrangements that allow for proper scrutiny.
The Executive Team
The CEO leads the Executive Team and has three sets of responsibilities: Executive Leader of the organisation, Accountable Officer and Deputy Ombudsman. These cover delivery of the Business Plan; financial stewardship and probity; and the making of final decisions on cases as defined within our delegation scheme.
Chaired by the CEO, the Executive Team meets regularly to oversee operational management and governance of our work. It tracks performance against objectives and agrees in-year allocation and utilisation of resources. A key priority for the executives was to bring about service change while maintaining our performance in investigations, so that the time spent waiting by complainants did not increase. This led to improved operational controls and a commitment to develop our capacity planning capability.