Watchdog will hold public bodies to account
A new watchdog will reform how complaints against official bodies are handled, the Assembly has heard.
The Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsperson's Office (NIPSO) will tackle allegations of maladministration in organisations like health trusts, schools, universities and colleges.
It will combine the powers and remit of the current Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints.
Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt said NIPSO would simplify and strengthen the mechanisms for providing redress.
Under new legislation, complaints to the Assembly Ombudsman will no longer have to go through an MLA.
Mr Nesbitt added: "The Bill gives members of the public direct access to the new NIPSO for all complaints.
"A successful complainant will be able to take NIPSO's report to the county court where a public body does not follow NIPSO's recommendation."
The NIPSO's remit will not include public sector employment issues.
Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Dr Tom Frawley said: "It will provide a means of redress for individuals who believe they have suffered injustice as a result of failures in public services and will also be a key office of the Assembly with a role in holding officials to account."