BELGIUM | The Federal Ombudsman calls for strengthening the trust of citizens

Having a right to an energy bonus but having to wait a long time to receive it. Needing a document to receive compensation after a fire, but not receiving it due to an IT bug on the part of the civil service. Ticking the wrong box on a form and being refused a visa. Losing several months of unemployment benefits due to a civil service delay

These are some of the 10,000 problems for which citizens contacted the Federal Ombudsman in 2023. On 24 April 2024, the Federal Ombudsman is presenting its annual report to the Chamber of Representatives. It underlines a number of problems that are affecting the trust of citizens in public authorities and calls for a strengthening of this trust. “Citizens should not have to bear the brunt of the new challenges and problems that public services are faced with”, says Federal Ombudsman Jérôme Aass.

The threshold of 10,000 case files crossed

2023 was a record year for the Federal Ombudsman. It opened no fewer than 10,195 case files: 7,383 complaints and 2,812 requests for information.

This upward trend in complaints received has been observed for several years. In five years, the Federal Ombudsman has dealt with a 45% increase in complaints. This is the result of successive crises:

  • The coronavirus crisis has led to a wave of complaints concerning unemployment benefits;

  • Wars and humanitarian crises have put pressure on the asylum and migration services and have led to increased complaints pertaining to this sector;

  • Energy bonuses, which the government put in place to keep energy prices at an affordable level during the crisis, gave rise to over 1,700 complaints in 2023. A quarter of complaints in 2023 concerned these energy bonuses Never before had the Federal Ombudsman received so many complaints on the same subject.

For 75% of the complaints received, the Federal Ombudsman was able to find a solution for the citizen. In general, citizens contact the Federal Ombudsman most often to complain about having to wait too long to receive a response or a decision (44% of complaints handled).

The Federal Ombudsman is not limited to handling individual complaints. They also make recommendations seeking to resolve similar problems encountered by a certain number of people or to avoid them happening in the future. It is in this context that they sent the "Energy Bonuses Report” to the Federal Parliament and to the SPF Economy. In this report, they list the problems encountered in the allocation of energy bonuses. They hope that the government will learn the necessary lessons to do better during any future crisis measures.

To read the full press release and the summary of the annual report in English, kindly refer to the download section below.


Source: The Federal Ombudsman, Belgium

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